It used to take Les Warner eight hours to mow his lawn. Now the 65-year-old Cedar Rapids man is looking forward to it only taking the hour that is really needed to get the job done when spring rolls around.
“I would mow a row or two last summer and had to stop for several minutes to catch my breath,” shares Warner. “My aortic valve was getting so bad that I was struggling at times to breathe. I was also fatigued.”
Warner had a condition called, aortic stenosis, which is a common heart problem caused by a narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve. Age is one factor that can lead to aortic stenosis. Additionally, certain heart conditions present at birth may contribute to aortic stenosis.
“Les had a congenital heart condition, which caused his aortic valve to narrow,” shares Georges Hajj, MD, UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s cardiologist. “We watched it for a time, but his condition deteriorated, and we had to do something about it. Fortunately for Les the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) to include patients like him, who have severe aortic valve stenosis but are at low risk for death or major complications associated with open-heart surgery to replace the damaged valves.”
Before the FDA’s approval last summer TAVR was only for patients at intermediate or higher risk for death or major complications during open-heart surgery. In low-risk patients, open-heart surgery had been the standard-of-care for aortic valve replacement.
In late 2016, St. Luke’s became the first and only Cedar Rapids hospital to perform TAVR. During the procedure a new aortic valve is put into place using a catheter, which is inserted through a small incision in the femoral artery. TAVR patients have a much shorter recovery than they would if they had open-heart surgery — recovering in days rather than weeks or months.
Warner had his TAVR procedure on September 24, 2019 and was sent home after a two-day stay in the hospital.
Within a couple of hours after the procedure I was alert and walking,” says Warner. “My only restriction was I couldn’t lift anything over 10 pounds, I could drive, walk and eat whatever I wanted. My heart function has improved and I am feeling much better. I am impressed with the procedure and am so glad I did it.”
Future routine procedure
“The average life of a TAVR valve is about 10 to 15 years,” explains Dr. Hajj. “We can perform more than one TAVR on an individual but for some patients who are young and healthy open-heart surgery may be the best route. It is something we discuss with each person and in many cases like it was for Les, TAVR is the best approach. I suspect in the future more patients will choose to have TAVR rather than open-heart surgery and it’s likely to become a routine procedure similar to what stents have become.”
St. Luke’s Heart Care TAVR Team has performed over 200 procedures and is proud to offer the complex procedure in Cedar Rapids.
“We are pleased to offer this program to the community and keep patients local,” says Garry Weide, DO, Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa cardiothoracic surgeon. “We have a great team that works well together. No one should have to travel to have this procedure because we are able to care for even the most complex patients.”
Warner has a lot to look forward to now that he’s feeling better and breathing easier since having his TAVR procedure. “I am going to do some traveling, spend time with my three grandchildren and may even look at getting a part-time job,” shares Warner.
Learn more about TAVR online. To schedule an appointment, call St. Luke’s Cardiology at (319) 364-7101.
Watch a TAVR Procedure