Mercy Medical Center Heart Center recently performed Akron-Canton’s first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) on a patient under conscious sedation. Carolyn Thomas, age 78, remained awake throughout the entire minimally invasive procedure to replace her aortic valve. The non-surgical valve replacement was performed by Ahmed Sabe, M.D., executive director, Mercy Heart Center.
Prior to the use of TAVR, aortic valve replacements required open heart surgery. TAVR itself – often used on patients who are at high risk for standard valve replacements – normally necessitates general anesthesia. However, using anesthesia on Thomas, who also suffers from fibrosis of the lungs, was not an option.
“Because the patient’s aortic valve was 85 to 90 percent closed and her lungs filled with fibrosis-related scar tissue, she was out of breath constantly,” said Sabe. “It was too risky to perform a TAVR using small chest incisions. Instead, we entered through the femoral artery in the groin, which required only a sedative for relaxation and an anesthetic to block pain.”
Thomas was able to return home less than 48 hours following valve replacement.
“Being awake the whole time – I wasn’t sure I could go through it,” said Thomas. “But I had become so tired. I knew this non-surgical procedure was my only hope. So, I gritted my teeth and did it. Turns out it wasn’t that bad. They told me everything as it was happening.”
Carolyn Thomas’ husband of 59 years, Michael Thomas, a retired fireman, says preparation for the TAVR began six months ago with a referral from his wife’s pulmonologist, Robert Packer, M.D. Within 10 hours of the non-surgical procedure, his wife’s breathing had already improved.
“You can really see the change,” he said. “She was always coughing before, and now that has stopped. She was in really good hands. We were so glad that she could stay in Canton and still receive this amazing non-surgical procedure. The whole staff, including nurses, has been great.”
Sabe said it’s part of the heart center’s mission to bring the most innovative heart care to communities Mercy serves.
“When patients can receive this kind of innovative, non-surgical procedure close to home and close to their families, it makes an already fast recovery even more positive for them,” Sabe said. “It is gratifying to see Mrs. Thomas breathing so much easier than before. This would not have been possible with traditional open heart surgery.”
Carolyn Thomas says she looking forward to living again. The couple has three grown sons, two granddaughters and two grandsons. She and her husband say they are grateful for the opportunity to celebrate 60 years of marriage next July.
Mercy Medical Center is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.