A Healed Heart
First TAVR Procedure Performed in Hybrid Room
In January, Lily Hughes, 73, knew something was wrong. She was experiencing fatigue and had severe difficulty breathing. “I was always tired, even though I slept all the time. I would wake up, do a few things and I would be tired right away again,” says Lily. After a consultation with her primary care physician, it became clear it was a problem with Lily’s heart. She was referred to Christian Hospital for further treatment.
The cardiology team at Christian Hospital performed an extensive evaluation of Lily’s condition. “Lily had severe aortic valve stenosis, and needed her aortic valve replaced. She previously had suffered a major stroke and was significantly disabled. For this reason, she was considered a high-risk patient for traditional open heart surgery and we were left with limited treatment options for Lily,” says Stefano Schena, MD, a Washington University Physicians cardiothoracic surgeon who practices exclusively at Christian Hospital.
When the aortic valve is damaged, it doesn’t allow the heart to adequately force blood to flow to vital organs. The traditional treatment replaces the diseased valve by means of open heart surgery. However, with Lily’s extensive medical history, it was too risky to perform. Her only option was an advanced procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR.
“TAVR is a minimally invasive way to replace the aortic valve by threading a new prosthetic valve through a small puncture site in the groin. This provides the patient with a quicker recovery time, much smaller incision site and less pain than open heart surgery,” says Rita Mukerji, MD, a BJC Medical Group interventional cardiologist at Christian Hospital.
TAVR is currently only offered to high-risk patients, and Lily fit the criteria. TAVR is performed in a hybrid room, which combines the equipment of an operating room, procedures of a cardiac catheterization lab and advanced medical imaging technology in one space. These specialized rooms are only available in around 2 percent of hospitals across the country. Christian Hospital opened its hybrid room in 2015, the only of its kind in north St. Louis County.
“The hybrid room allows us to provide care for our patients in a way we previously could not. Before, Christian Hospital could only offer traditional surgical treatment options for valve replacements. Having this technology has opened up a highway of possibilities and revolutionizes the way we treat multiple cardiac and vascular conditions,” says Dr. Schena
Lily’s need for TAVR arose around the same time the hybrid room became equipped to perform the procedure. She was the first patient to receive the procedure at the hospital. “It was scary to be the first,” says Lily, “But I had comfort knowing I was in good hands.” And she was. Christian Hospital has a dedicated heart and valve team, who have obtained additional credentials and specialized training in TAVR. “Without the level of training and expertise of our entire team, we wouldn’t be able to have such successes like we did with Lily,” says Dr. Schena.
Lily woke up shortly after her procedure, able to breathe strongly and clearly — something she had not experienced in a long time. Lily recovered in the hospital for only three days before returning to her home in Alton, Ill. “When we see a patient who has had the TAVR procedure, it’s typically an amazing recovery. Usually this person is very sick before, but almost immediately, they are able to breath better, and eventually resume their lives,” says Dr. Mukerji.
Five months after the procedure, Lily feels like herself again. “Now I’m awake and energetic, and I can do things I like to do again, like shopping,” says Lily. She also enjoys spending more time with her five children and watching her grandchildren play. “They took great care of me at Christian Hospital and treated me very well. Everyone was very nice and friendly.”
“The TAVR procedure gave Lily a second chance. When she first came to us, she felt defeated. Now, she has a new perspective and renewed hope. I look forward to providing this same level of care to other patients,” says Dr. Schena.
Since Lily’s case, multiple successful TAVRs have been performed in the hybrid room. “It’s an ongoing effort at Christian Hospital to provide world-class care to more patients with a greater diversity of needs. Since the opening of the hybrid room, we are constantly working to bring more extensive, innovative treatment options to our patients”, says Dr Schena, “The TAVR procedure is only the first step.”
Hear other patient stories or read the current issue of Christian Cares magazine.
Christian Hospital and Northwest HealthCare, members of BJC HealthCare, provide world-class medical care to the communities of North County, Greater St. Louis County and Southern Illinois.