Heart patients who can’t handle invasive treatments have new hope thanks to a revolutionary procedure at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute.
Transcatheter aortic valve implantation, or TAVI, is an innovative method for replacing diseased aortic valves, which allows doctors to deliver the same care that surgeons give through open-heart surgery but in a less invasive manner.
“Up until very recently, patients that were in the category of very high risk or inoperable, really had no option,” said Dr. Rob Welsh, director of adult cardiac catheterization laboratory at the Mazankowski. “They would get medical therapy until the end of their life or if they were candidates, they were sent off to Vancouver to be assessed for the TAVI program there.”
Welsh estimated that as many as 50 per cent of patients who need open aortic valve replacement are too sick or too frail to have it done. The TAVI procedure is meant for these patients.
Three patients have already undergone TAVI since the first procedure in Edmonton in mid-May. Alex Shapka was the first Albertan to go through it.
“I was always weak and tired. Before, as soon as I stopped moving, I would fall asleep,” said the 78-year-old. “All I wanted was to be better. So when they said there was a different way of doing it, I agreed as long as it worked. It did, and I’m glad that it did.”
Shapka had the surgery on May 10 and was released from hospital three days later.
“The biggest thing you’ll see in these patients is the recovery after aortic valve surgery is typically as long as seven to nine days in hospital,” Welsh said. “With this device, patients are ready to go home within days. It can be really revolutionary.”
Local patients diagnosed with aortic stenosis and deemed unsuitable for open-heart surgery will be referred to Edmonton’s TAVI team. A cardiac team is expected to begin performing the procedure at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre by late summer or early fall.