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New Valve, New Vigor

Cutting-edge Heart Procedure Provides Hope for High Risk Patients

Ruth Mahone suffered from light chest pain for years, but usually it went away.

“I had the pain but mostly ignored it,” Ruth says. “I would just sit down and rest a bit, and it would go away.”

One fall day after blowing leaves, her chest pain didn’t go away, so she sought emergency care. The emergency staff decided to keep her for observation.

Brian Schwartz, MD, a cardiologist at Kettering Health Network, told Ruth her aortic valve was opening less than half of what it should be. She suffered from aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the aortic valve of her heart. Her valve needed to be replaced—or she might only have up to six months to live.

Traditionally, replacing the aortic valve requires open heart surgery, which carries a high risk of complications for someone like Ruth at 89 years old. The hospital stay for open heart surgery is usually up to a week, and the recovery period ranges from three to six months.

Luckily for Ruth, she was a candidate for a new procedure.

In 2011 Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), an alternative procedure that’s performed through the femoral artery in the groin, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for aortic stenosis. Last year the first TAVR procedure was performed in the Dayton region.

“Until last year the only treatment option in this area would have been open heart surgery, which requires that we split the breast bone and put the patient on a heart/lung bypass machine while surgery is underway,” says Dr. Schwartz. Because Ruth was able to have the new, minimally-invasive procedure, her recovery was quick.

“She went in on the Monday before Thanksgiving (2014), and we were both home in time to have Thanksgiving dinner,” says Ruth’s son Terrence, who was in town to be with his mother for her procedure and recovery. “She was driving again by Saturday.”

Ruth’s son wasn’t the only one impressed with her fast recovery. Ruth returned to church on Sunday to the surprise of much of the congregation. “They were concerned because they thought I had chosen to skip surgery,” Ruth says. “When they found out I had it only days before, their jaws dropped.”

Ruth is excited to get back to her daily activities and living independently.