Yavapai Regional Medical Center’s (YRMC’s) Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) program has been up and running since November 2016, and is making a positive difference for local patients. Initially, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved the program for high risk patients.

“These were patients in their upper 80s with multiple medical comorbidities, like severe renal failure, previous open heart surgeries and at very high risk,” said Jose Torres, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, The James Family Heart Center at YRMC.

TAVR Open to More People

The FDA has now approved TAVR for patients who are at moderate risk.

“These are patients in their late 70s and early 80s,” said Dr. Torres. “They have some comorbidities—early kidney dysfunction, some heart failure, or some past open heart surgeries.”

Although everyone wants to have a less invasive procedure these days, the minimally invasive TAVR procedure is not intended for younger patients.

“The younger, lower risk patients usually need a mechanical valve, which may require a sternotomy and cardiopulmonary bypass,” Dr. Torres said. “At this time, the life expectancy of transcatheter valves is not comparable to mechanical valves in younger, healthier patients.”

TAVR: Heal at Home

TAVR is helping keep local residents home instead of going to Phoenix, which is a good thing for patients and their families.

“Prior to starting up our valve clinic, we were sending out about 20 patients a year to Phoenix to get the transcatheter valves. So, it is definitely a good procedure to have in the community,” explained Dr. Torres. “We do have an older community. A lot of patients are a little bit sicker and their health isn’t as great as it used to be. Driving to Phoenix is just a big hassle for them.”

Local Dewey resident and recent TAVR patient Linda Thompson likes that she can have her healthcare closer to home.

“I would not have gone to Phoenix if they didn’t have TAVR up here; it’s just too hard on my family and once you have trust in your doctors up here, I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else,” she said.

TAVR Changed Linda’s Life

Linda had open heart surgery two years ago and developed valvular stenosis after it. She was on oxygen and could barely walk up a flight of stairs or participate in activities she enjoyed, such as playing Bunco with her friends and working in her garden.

Because of her complications, Linda was not a good candidate for a repeat open heart surgery—it was too risky for her health. However, after TAVR, Linda said, “The doctors were very confident and very caring and told me there was hardly any risk with it. I had no pain from it at all. Right after it, I felt like a healthy person again.”

Dr. Torres said, “The YRMC administration and cardiovascular physicians are very focused on developing a service line to help the community, whether it is from coronary artery disease, aortic valve disease, or mitral valve disease, so we are pushing ourselves and the institution to be on the forefront of structural heart disease.”