By Maureen Talarico
April 17 was a special day for the care team that works at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Heart & Vascular Center. That day, they performed their 250th transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a minimally invasive procedure that replaces the aortic valve. It’s ideal for patients who are not good candidates for open heart surgery.
“This procedure is revolutionary in that we can give our patients back health and vitality, without having to perform open heart surgery,” said Dr. Jason Schultz, an interventional cardiologist who directs the TAVR program at the Heart & Vascular Center. “And to know that more than 250 people have been given a better quality of life makes us all proud to be part of this incredible team.”
Richard Klinzing, 75, of Babbitt, received his TAVR in December 2017.
“I feel a lot more energetic and I don’t feel so tired anymore,” Klinzing said.
He also was relieved he did not have to have open heart surgery and was out of the hospital in two days.
“I went in on Tuesday and was home watching TV on Thursday,” Klinzing said.
Now he and his wife, Marlynn, are looking forward to spending more time walking on area trails and traveling to Alaska.
“I’m assuming I’m going to be around a lot longer, thanks to this procedure,” he added.
TAVR uses a valve composed of pig or cow tissue, similar to surgically-placed heart valves, within a metal stent. The valve is delivered through arteries in the body via the groin, under the collar bone or under the breast or ribs. Once inside the heart, the valve expands to about an inch in size and begins working immediately — all while the heart is beating.
The Heart & Vascular team’s one-year TAVR mortality rate ranks in the top 1 percent among all centers across the nation that perform the procedure. And, it ranks in the top 10 percent in the latest clinical trial metric for patients’ quality of life being improved or acceptable 30 days later.
Dr. Schultz said many people play a role in achieving such high-quality scores.
“Almost every single discipline has hands on a TAVR patient, and without all those people, we wouldn’t have the quality outcomes we do,” he said.
St. Mary’s Medical Center is the only hospital north of the Twin Cities to offer heart patients this choice. For more information, please contact the Heart & Vascular Center at (218) 786-3443.