Mary Ann Railsback, 79, has been a patient at St. Luke’s Heart Care Clinic
for a long time. In fact, she and her husband, Monte, 83, see the same cardiologist and have standing, dual appointments. Monte had a heart attack and open-heart surgery
at St. Luke’s more than 20 years ago, so he continues to see his heart doctor for preventive care. Mary Ann has had AFib (short for atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heartbeat) for several
years but recently started having other heart problems.
“I’ve known Monte since the late 1990s,” said Keith Kopec, MD, St. Luke’s Heart Care Clinic cardiologist
who cares for the Railsbacks. “I’ve seen Mary Ann for about 10 years. She was just kind of cruising along without a whole lot of cardiac problems until recently.
“Not everyone comes in with a big heart problem,” Dr. Kopec continued. “We see a growing number of people for preventive care. They may have some family history, so we focus on modifying risks and taking a proactive approach. Mary Ann developed congestive heart failure problems, which is not unusual for a 79-year-old woman with chronic AFib.”
Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. Causes include coronary artery disease (buildup of plaque in the artery walls), high blood pressure and disorders of the heart valves. Mary Ann was dealing with the latter.
“I knew and had been monitoring Mary Ann’s heart valve issues for a number of years, but they got worse,” Dr. Kopec explained. “They started causing repeated hospitalizations, so we had to be more aggressive in searching for the reason. What was challenging was three of her four heart valves were not functioning properly. We had to figure out which one was most likely contributing to her problems.”
Dr. Kopec consulted and ultimately referred Mary Ann to his colleague Aref Bin Abdulhak, MD, St. Luke’s interventional and structural cardiologist.
An interventional cardiologist is specially trained to perform catheter-based heart valve repair and replacement, among other advanced structural heart procedures.
“In order to determine which valve to focus on, we did multiple imaging and cardiac CT scans,” stated Dr. Bin Abdulhak. “We determined her aortic valve was the one causing her problems. She had double aortic valve disease – aortic stenosis, which is the narrowing of the valve, and the valve was leaky. I believe it was also causing her mitral and tricuspid valves to leak. Because of this, and due to her age, I recommended the TAVR procedure.”
Valve Replacement Without Surgery
TAVR, short for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement,
allows the interventional cardiologist to implant a new aortic valve through a catheter instead of requiring open-heart surgery. The catheter is typically inserted through an artery in the groin, but it can also be delivered to the heart through an artery in the neck or arm. For Mary Ann, Dr. Bin Abdulhak used the arm entry point because the artery in the groin was not large enough to accommodate the catheter.
“After the procedure, Mary Ann spent one night at St. Luke’s, which is typical with a TAVR,” Dr. Bin Abdulhak reported. “The alternative would have been opening her chest, so the TAVR procedure greatly improved her survival and quality of life.”
Monte went through open-heart quadruple bypass surgery more than 20 years ago, which required a much longer recovery period. He was grateful his wife had an easier experience.
“With my surgery, I was out of work for a long time,” Monte said. “But with today’s modern technology, Mary Ann’s valve replacement was slick as a whistle.”
“Everything went wonderfully,” Mary Ann concurred. “I had no pain after surgery, and I went home the next day. I feel great and am back to my usual activities around the house, working outside in the yard and spending time with my family and new puppy.”
“We just can’t say enough about St. Luke’s and the doctors at St. Luke’s Heart Care Clinic,” shared Monte. “You’ll never meet another guy with as good a bedside manner as Dr. Kopec. And Dr. Bin Abdulhak is a great cardiologist. We all know St. Luke’s is the Cedar Rapids Heart Hospital. These doctors are beyond anything you could wish for; I believe Jesus works through their hands.”
For more information about TAVR and the other advanced procedures only available at St. Luke’s, visit unitypoint.org/cedarrapids/heart
. To schedule care with a cardiologist, call St. Luke’s Heart Care Clinic at (319) 364-7101.