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Essentia Health to broadcast aortic valve-replacement procedure

Grand Rapids resident Emilie Zasada initially planned to have shoulder-replacement surgery, so when the 81-year-old learned there was a problem with her heart that first had to be resolved, she was disappointed. Even more so when Zasada thought she would have to travel to the Twin Cities for a procedure known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

“I said no way — I’m not driving down to the Cities,” she recalled.

Zasada was relieved to learn of the Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Heart & Vascular Center, which features an experienced, comprehensive valve program. She had the procedure done on Oct. 15 — with a twist. It was filmed by Essentia staff and the recording will be shown for the first time at noon Tuesday, Nov. 12, via Facebook. Zasada was intrigued by the thought of being on camera, calling the opportunity “interesting.”

The video recording includes Essentia cardiologists Jason Schultz and Kalkidan Bishu, along with their team, walking viewers through the operation from start to finish. Specifically, they note how TAVR has less risk of complication than traditional open-heart surgeries.

To watch the video, visit the official Essentia Health Facebook page (@essentiahealth). Click on “events” and then “TAVR Heart Valve Replacement Video Premiere.”

“Doing a procedure like this on camera is important for patients to be able to preview and understand more deeply what will happen on their own procedure day,” said Dr. Schultz, who leads Essentia’s highly regarded TAVR program. “Filming a procedure demonstrates that the staff involved are very well trained in their various roles, as in order for it to go smoothly there must be minimal interruptions and discussion.

“Emilie’s procedure was a fantastic success and went very smoothly.”

Indeed, Zasada was discharged from Essentia the following day and was all but pain-free. Less than a month removed from surgery, she is back to doing many of the things she loves to do.

“I still go out and walk the dog,” she said. “We’re out in the country and I like to do a lot of walking.”

What is TAVR?

TAVR treats severe aortic stenosis, a common heart-valve disease that can result in reduced blood flow to the body, forcing the heart to work harder. The procedure is minimally invasive and has less risk of complications than traditional valve-replacement surgeries. With it, average hospitalization is about one day and patients feel back to normal within about a week. With the traditional method, those timeframes are closer to one week (hospitalization) and three months (before feeling like one’s old self).

“The difference really is recovery,” Dr. Schultz said. He added that there are fewer post-op restrictions with TAVR compared to open-chest surgery.

The most experienced, comprehensive valve program in the region, Essentia’s Heart & Vascular Center has performed nearly 450 TAVR procedures since it opened in 2013. Essentia’s program ranks nationally as one of the safest and most successful. Metrics such as quality of life, survival and procedural success rank in the top 10% nationwide.

For example:

. In 2018, 86.6% of Essentia’s patients reported a better quality of life 30 days post-procedure.

. Also in 2018, our percentage of procedure-related cardiac events was zero, meaning no patient had a significant cardiac event in the hospital following the operation.

Dr. Schultz credits the program’s growth and success to a dedicated team of highly skilled and trained individuals, all focused on patients’ best interests. The Structural Heart Disease Team at Essentia Health is among the most diverse and thorough in the country. Primary care physicians, cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, vascular surgeons, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, coordinators, geriatric specialists and administrative staff all work together to ensure the absolute best outcomes for patients.

“This is a team effort and it starts at the ground level with the primary-care docs,” Dr. Schultz said.

Most patients are a candidate for TAVR, according to Dr. Schultz.

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