St. Joseph's/Candler hits milestone in minimally-invasive heart valve replacements

St. Joseph's/Candler hits milestone in minimally-invasive heart valve replacements

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Beverly Harris is the 50th patient to receive Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement at The Heart Hospital at St. Joseph's/Candler since it was first brought to the region two years ago.

TAVR is a less invasive approach to heart valve replacement. It is indicated for patients with aortic stenosis, or a narrowing of the aortic valve opening that does not allow normal blood flow, who have a history or other medical conditions.

Beverly had just moved to Statesboro from Tennessee when she began to experience shortness of breath, fatigue and an inability to do the things she used to do.  Her problem was caused by a calcified aortic valve that would not open. But the problem was that she was at high risk for open valve-replacement surgery because in the past she had received radiation treatment for cancer.

On December 22, Dr. Michael Babcock and Dr. Soumya Neravetla placed a new valve in her heart.

Dr. Soumya Neravetla is fellowship-trained in TAVR and the Medical Director of The Valve Clinic at St. Joseph's/Candler.  Dr. Michael Babcock is TAVR fellowship-trained.

Beverly went home two days later, just in time for Christmas.

The team at The Heart Hospital is made up of a group of highly-trained specialists, including a cardiothoracic surgeon, interventional cardiologists, imaging and anesthesia physicians as well as sonographers and surgical and cath lab staff uses a catheter inserted from either the leg or chest to insert a new prosthetic valve while the heart is still beating.

During the procedure, the patient receives general anesthesia. Once asleep, a small incision is made so specialists can insert a short hollow tube about the width of a pencil. The specialists will then insert a balloon into the sheath and use a special x-ray to navigate it through the vessel until it reaches the aortic valve. There, the balloon is inflated stretching, the nonfunctioning heart valve.

Next, the team will use the same sheath and x-ray to advance a transcatheter heart valve. Again, a balloon is used to expand the new prosthetic valve within the diseased valve, pushing the leaflets of the diseased valve aside.

The TAVR team uses the Edwards Lifesciences SAPIEN 3 transcatheter heart valve for its TAVR procedures. This third generation heart valve has a smaller profile for smaller blood vessel diameters, increasing the number of patients eligible for the transfemoral version of the procedure.

As the balloon is deflated, the heart's normal blood flow will cause the leaflets of the new valve to begin working.

The Heart Hospital was the first in the region to employ this technology in 2013. TAVR patients ranged in age from 64 to 94 and the average stay in the hospital after the procedure was two days.

To learn more and see videos of a TAVR procedures, go to or call The Valve Clinic at 912.819.TAVR.

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