Doctors at Henry Ford Allegiance Health in Jackson performed the facility’s first catheter-based replacement of an aortic heart valve Wednesday. The facility is part of the nationally recognized transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) program of Henry Ford Health System, and the procedure is a minimally invasive alternative to open-heart valve replacement surgery.
Dr. William O’Neill, medical director of the Henry Ford Center for Structural Heart Disease, attended the procedure. He performed the first TAVR in the U.S. in 2005. Since launching the Henry Ford Health System program at Henry Ford Hospital in 2012, more than 1,400 patients have undergone TAVR through the Henry Ford Heart and Vascular Institute.
The first patient at the facility was an active 86-year-old man diagnosed with aortic stenosis. He experienced shortness of breath while working on his farm, and testing showed calcification and narrowing of his heart’s aortic valve opening, which restricted blood flow and could have eventually led to heart failure or stroke.
The procedure was led by Dr. Tiberio Frisoli, Dr. Matthew Jonovich, and Dr. Usman Khokhar, interventional cardiologists. It took about 1 ½ hours. The patient is expected to be released today.
“This revolutionary procedure to replace a defective heart valve without open-heart surgery brings new hope for people with advanced heart disease,” says Jonovich. “TAVR is easier on the patient, allows for quicker recovery and, ultimately, can improve the patient’s quality of life.”
The facility’s advanced cardiac catheterization laboratory is equipped with imaging and procedural technology. Cardiologists use thin catheters to access the heart through the femoral vein in the groin area, threading the collapsed valve up through the tubing. Once properly positioned, a balloon expands the valve, pushing back the native valve and lodging the new device in place.
“Patients typically notice improved symptoms shortly after TAVR and can be released as soon as the next day,” says Khokhar. “Studies are showing TAVR is the safest, most effective option for the majority of patients with advanced aortic valve disease.”
Cardiologists often are able to offer the procedure as an option for those whose advanced age, frailty, or degree of heart damage makes open-heart surgery especially challenging.
“We’re pleased to offer this specialized care for patients at Henry Ford Allegiance Health after seeing such great results with patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit,” says Frisoli. “We’ve treated many people with TAVR who have been turned away elsewhere with fantastic results.”
The interventional cardiology teams from Detroit and Jackson have been working together for months to prepare for the program’s establishment at Henry Ford Allegiance Health. Every TAVR case requires a team that includes anesthesiologists, cardiac imaging specialists, and support staff.
The Henry Ford Center for Structural Heart Disease program at Jackson also offers balloon valvuloplasty, where a balloon is used to loosen buildup on stiff heart valves, as well as WATCHMAN device implantation to prevent stroke-causing blood clots in patients with atrial fibrillation. Henry Ford interventional cardiologists also offer transcaval access for TAVR, an alternative way to thread the catheter into the heart for those with smaller veins or other access issues. The procedure was pioneered at Henry Ford Hospital and is now used around the world.