Doctors at Sacred Heart Medical Center completed their 1,000th heart surgery using a new cutting edge technique Wednesday and by Thursday the patient was walking on his out of the hospital.
About eight years ago, the Sacred Heart Medical Center joined about 50 sites around the country to perform TAVR or Transcatheter aortic valve replacement surgeries. The Sacred Heart team is led by four cardiologists and four surgeons.
The procedure is usually done to fix an aortic stenosis. This is when the heart’s aortic valve opening narrows and begins to be blocked.
This makes it difficult for blood to move through to the rest of the body. This can cause chest pain and shortness of breath.
To replace the valve and widen it, doctors insert a catheter in the groin. They run it to the blocked valve and then insert the new valve and put it into place.
"This valve then sits in the middle and pushes the old valve out to the side and takes over the function,” Thoracic Surgeon Dr. Branden Reynolds said.
This allows blood to pump from the heart to the rest of the body.
Reynolds said the TAVR procedure is much less invasive that other types of heart surgeries. He said the procedure is much shorter and patients can recover faster.
"They recovery faster, they get back to their activities faster, and particularly in patients who are sick or have other health issues the risks of this procedure are less than with other standard heart surgeries," said Reynolds.
Larry Flint is an example of just that. He is the 1,000th patient to undergo the TAVR surgery at Sacred Heart Medical Center.
His surgery was Wednesday, and by Thursday morning he was discharged. He said he was up walking shortly after being on the surgery table.
Flint drove all the way from the Tri-Cities to get some much needed help. Eleven years ago, he underwent open heart surgery. At the time, doctors used a valve made from a pig which is a common practice in medicine.
“They cut through the breast bone and I've got 18 wires holding the thing together. It does take time to recover,” Flint said.
He said he spent eight weeks recovering. And years later, the valve started to leak. He said it was difficult at times to breathe.
Flint opted to have the TAVR surgery at Sacred Heart. The procedure, which once was only used for people with severe health issues that could not withstand open heart surgery, is now used on all types of patients.
Flint said he was only partially under anesthesia and was able to hear and see some of what was going on during the surgery.
"I was really surprised that there was 15 people in the operating room yesterday, it was a big room, lots of lights all over, people were really busy,” Flint said.
The team of doctors perform about eight TAVR surgeries a day.
"It's very gratifying. At Sacred Heart we've been on the leading edge of technology for a very very long time, so we have stayed at the leading edge of technology here and it's nice to be able to bring this to our patients,” Reynolds said.
And the work continues. They are set to begin a study on replacing the mitral valve. This valve lets blood flow from one chamber of the heart to another.
As for Flint, he will continue to enjoy his retirement with his family. He said he thankful to be able to walk out of the hospital just one day after surgery.
"Heart surgery is not a small deal. It can take your life many times. It's something to think about and be grateful for to come through in such good shape,” Flint said.