PMC performs historic heart valve surgery

portneuf performs historic surgery

POCATELLO, Idaho - Doctors at Portneuf Medical Center are making history after performing eastern Idaho's first Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement surgery.

Floyd Gleed, 76, is the first local man to undergo this surgery at Portneuf, and less than 24-hours after the procedure was performed in a surgery room swarming with 26 medical professionals, he is already alert and ready to go home.

"They performed a miracle, is what I think they did," Gleed said during Thursday's press conference in the PMC lobby.

The procedure, also known as TAVR, is essentially heart surgery without opening-up the patient's chest.

Doctors send a catheter through the artery on the leg and feed it up to the heart. Once it reaches the heart, a stint is placed inside the aortic valve which is wrapped around a balloon. This opens the valve enough to allow blood to flow from the heart into the rest of the body.

Candidates for this procedure are usually older patients in their 70s and 80s whose bodies cannot handle the standard open heart surgery procedure. These individuals have what is called aortic stenosis. This means calcium deposits form inside the aortic valve, not allowing blood pumping from the heart to flow through the valve. Instead, the blood backs-up and causes severe health problems.

Up until now, the only way to treat this is by putting in a new valve using open heart surgery.

Doctors say symptoms of this disease are usually found when older patients have a shortness of breath, fatigue, and become winded while trying to perform everyday tasks and activities.

Dr. Jacob Delarosa and his team of doctors spent months training for this procedure, and called this the "pinnacle" of heart surgery when it comes to the latest technological advances in the medical field, setting Portneuf apart from other hospitals around the nation as it rises to the medical capability of larger hospitals such as the Cleveland Clinic or the Mayo Clinic.

"With this procedure we just completed, we are at par and at the same level with any program across the country," Dr. Delarosa said.

Dr. Fernando Grigera said this was first done in France back in 2002, so doctors know so far these valves last for at 12 years. Beyond that, the entire procedure is too new.

Delarosa and his team of doctors said the recovery process is much faster using TAVR instead of open heart surgery, and comes with much fewer risks.

"You wouldn't want to open the chest of an 89-year old," Dr. Grigera said. "But complications can still occur. Bleeding is the only major issue."

Grigera also mentioned that, as technology evolves, doctors will hopefully be able to perform this with only a needle instead of having to cut the skin in order to feed the catheter up into the heart.

According to the surgeons, the replacement valve comes from the pericardium of a cow. They said they were surprised to learn how similar a cow's aortic valve is to that of a human's.

Follow Kaitlin on Twitter: @KaitlinLoukides

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