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Heart valve procedure launched at Trinity

A NEW ALTERNATIVE — Trinity Health System’s Dr. Tristan Smith says their new transcatheter aortic valve replacement program “brings new hope for people with advanced heart disease.” -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — Doctors at Trinity Health System say a new, minimally-invasive alternative to traditional open heart surgery is going to be a game-changer for the community.

At a press conference Thursday, Trinity CEO Matt Grimshaw said the hospital had launched a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR, program. TAVR uses a catheter-based technique to access the heart through the femoral artery in the groin region. The transcatheter valve they use is crimped onto a balloon and then threaded up through tubing.

Grimshaw said two patients underwent TAVR Tuesday. Both were released the following day.

“It’s one more service we can offer locally,” Grimshaw said. “That means patients will no longer need to leave the community” to get the care they need.

“In layman’s terms, all they’re doing is opening a small incision in the groin and replacing (the valve),” he said.

The procedure is suitable for patients with severe calcific aortic stenosis, a condition where the valve which allows blood to leave the heart becomes stiff and narrow. Untreated, it can lead to shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, fainting spells, heart failure and, in some cases, sudden death.

Dr. Tristan Smith, medical director of structural heart interventions at Trinity, said the revolutionary procedure “brings new hope for people with advanced heart disease, specifically those with severe aortic stenosis.”

“TAVR is easier on the patient, allows for quicker recovery and, ultimately, leads to improvement in the patients’ quality of life,” he said.

Shorter recovery times means less time spent in the hospital. Dr. Gregory Suero, the other interventional cardiologist on the team, said patients typically start seeing improvements shortly after TAVR, and said it’s the “safest, most effective option for the majority of patients with advanced aortic valve disease.”

“I had patients came to me shortly after I started here at Trinity telling me they were ready for (the procedure) and I had to tell them we wouldn’t be ready until May or June of this year,” Suero said. “I told them I could send them to just about any reputable clinic, but they said they didn’t want to go anywhere, they wanted to do it here. Those are words that inspire us.”

In addition to Suero and Smith, cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Baldev Sekhon; anesthesiologist Dr. Abdalla Kalla; heart failure specialist Dr. John Schirger; radiologist Dr. Jacob Brown; coordinator Danielle Rosen, a nurse practitioner; and clinic supervisor Brittany Alford comprise Trinity’s structural heart team.

While the first two TAVRs were performed at Trinity Tuesday, officials say Suero and Smith have performed more than 200 of them over the past three years in the Ohio Valley region.

The team is “often able to offer TAVR as an option for those whose advanced age, frailty or degree of heart damage makes open heart surgery particularly challenging,” the hospital said. It’s now approved for all patients with severe aortic stenosis, regardless of surgical risk.

Sekhon said they use a team approach to figure out what the best treatment option is for each individual patient, whether that’s TAVR or open heart surgery.

“It’s about what’s best for the patient,” he said. “We work together to tailor the program for the individual patient. At the end of the day, we want to do for the patients what we’d want to do for our own family members.”

Grimshaw said it’s a “big day for all of us here at Trinity.”

“There’s no doubt, cardiovascular disease is one of the largest problems in the Ohio Valley,” he said.

“Today’s a good day — not just for Trinity. It’s a good day for the entire community. This is what we should always be doing, raising the bar.”

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