Minimally invasive heart valve procedure now offered at UnityPoint Health - Cedar Rapids

Heart
Dean Baughman is glad to be back at the gym for his usual workouts three days a week. The 85-year-old Marion man credits his recent heart procedure at UnityPoint Health – Cedar Rapids with his ability to return to the gym. 

“I was having shortness of breath,” said Baughman. “My cardiologist determined I had a bad aortic valve. He told me about a new minimally invasive procedure that was going to be offered at Unity Point Health that would replace my bad valve. I was glad to have it available to me – so close to home.”

The procedure Baughman is referring to is called, transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR. It’s a less invasive procedure for individuals that are high risk or too sick for open-heart surgery. 

Doctors with the UnityPoint Health – Cedar Rapids Heart and Vascular Institute performed the first TAVR cases at St. Luke’s late last month. Baughman was the second TAVR patient. 
 
“A multi-disciplinary team of physicians from UnityPoint Clinic Cardiology and Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa (PCI) Surgical Specialists, and Linn County Anesthesiologists are able to perform TAVR cases at St. Luke’s. Our team of cardiologists worked with PCI Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Mark Barnett on the first two cases,” said Dr. Wassef Karrowni, UnityPoint Clinic Cardiology. “Both cases were successful. I am proud of how well the team worked together.  We are the first in Cedar Rapids to offer this heart valve replacement procedure. The TAVR procedure is part of the advanced level of cardiac care we envisioned we would offer through the Heart and Vascular Institute when it was announced a year ago.”

The TAVR procedure offers hope for heart patients with inoperable aortic stenosis (failing heart valves), that are not candidates for surgical valve replacement. TAVR valves are inserted via a catheter through the femoral artery, without requiring open-heart surgery. This minimally invasive surgical procedure repairs the damaged valve by placing a replacement valve into the aortic valve.  Somewhat similar to a stent placed in an artery; this approach delivers a fully collapsible replacement valve to the valve site through a catheter. Left untreated, aortic valve stenosis can lead to serious heart problems.

“Dean was in St. Luke’s for only two nights following his procedure,” said Dr. Karrowni. “This procedure really prevents a serious disease from becoming much worse and greatly improves the patient’s quality of life. It’s a great option when we are unable to perform open-heart surgery. We are pleased to offer this procedure to patients in Eastern Iowa – allowing them to remain close to home.” 

“I had no concerns about the newness of the procedure,” said Baughman. “I thought it was great they offered the procedure right here in Cedar Rapids and I had great care at St. Luke’s. Everyone was fantastic. “I returned this week to my normal regime of over an hour of cardiovascular exercise and it feels good to be able to do it again.”

Physicians anticipate performing 30 cases at St. Luke’s the first year and 55 to 60 cases the second year and beyond. 

Aortic stenosis affects three percent of persons older than 65 and is a common heart problem caused by a narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve due to excessive calcium deposited on the valve leaflets.  When the valve narrows, it does not open or close properly, making the heart work harder to pump blood throughout the body. Eventually, this causes the heart to weaken and function poorly, which may lead to heart failure and increased risk for sudden cardiac death.  Nearly 16 percent of Iowa’s population is 65 or older and that number is expected to increase 20 percent of the state’s population by 2050. A study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology finds these patients with severe aortic stenosis stand to benefit greatly from this minimally invasive TAVR procedure. 

Risk factors known to influence disease progression of aortic stenosis include lifestyle habits similar to those of coronary artery disease such as hypertension, advanced age, being male, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, smoking, metabolic syndrome, and end-stage kidney disease.

St. Luke’s Foundation contributed the $225,000 needed for the enhancements made to one of the interventional radiology/vascular labs to accommodate the TAVR cases at the hospital.

The UnityPoint Health Heart & Vascular Institute will continue to enhance its expertise with the addition of Dr. Ron Oren in mid-January. Dr. Oren has practiced cardiology in the Midwest for over 25 years. He has served on the faculty at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and as a Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria. He is one of only 814 cardiologists in the nation who are board certified in Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology. With the addition of Dr. Oren, UnityPoint Clinic Cardiology will offer enhanced Advanced Heart Failure and Pulmonary Hypertension Programs.