Breakthrough heart valve replacement procedure comes to Providence Alaska

January 08, 2016
For the first time in Alaska, a breakthrough in the treatment of advanced heart disease patients is available at Providence Alaska Medical Center. 

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a procedure in which patients with severe aortic stenosis receive valve replacement through a minimally invasive catheter via a two-inch incision in the groin rather than the traditional method of valve replacement, open heart surgery. 

For patients who are not healthy enough for open heart surgery, TAVR can be a life-saving alternative,” said Stanley Watkins, M.D., chief of medical staff for the Providence Heart & Vascular Center. “Having TAVR available in Alaska has already made a difference in the lives of patients here. For many of these patients, TAVR is their last option.”

TAVR works by repairing – rather than removing – the existing aortic valve by wedging a replacement Sapien Transcatheter Heart Valve into the existing valve’s place. Once the new valve is expanded, it works by pushing the old valve leaflets out of the way while the tissue in the new valve takes over the task of regulating blood flow. 

“Our state of the art imaging and highly skilled caregivers from the Providence Heart & Vascular Center, in collaboration with a team from cardiac surgery, allow for this treatment option to be available to patients that are considered too high risk for traditional methods of aortic valve repair,” said Noelle Brassard, manager of the Providence Cardiac Cath Lab. 

One of the other benefits for patients is the surgery and recovery times. TAVR is less invasive, therefore the procedure takes less time to perform. Patients can be discharged in as little as two days, compared to the seven or more days for open heart surgery patients. And, according to Dr. Watkins, many TAVR patients are up and walking the evening after surgery or the next day. 

The decision to start performing TAVR in Alaska was based on both need and capability.

“TAVR is a procedure patients would have previously had to have been flown out of state to receive,” said Judy Ramos, director of Cardiovascular Services at Providence Alaska Medical Center. “With cardiologists who have the experience and expertise to perform TAVR, it made sense to have the procedures available here in Alaska. 

“Having TAVR here in Alaska is proof of our continued commitment to provide the best care for Alaskans where it makes sense, here at home,” she added. 

More Information

For more information about TAVR, please contact Providence Heart & Vascular Center at 907-212-3065.