750th TAVR Patient Thrives After Surgery

Peggy Price sits in restaurant in blue t-shirt, with glasses, and hair in a ponytail.
Today Peggy Price counts her blessings with every step she takes and with every beat of her heart.

On a sunny day, it’s nice to go for a walk and that’s exactly what Peggy Price likes to do. Heading down the road in her Blount County neighborhood brings her to her daughter’s doorstep.

Visiting with family is a pleasant part of life that Price doesn’t take for granted. There was a time when her heart problems kept her too out of breath and exhausted to walk across the living room, let alone walk to another part of the neighborhood.

The shortness of breath was frustrating enough, but she was also having dizzy spells. Those spells were so bad that they followed her to bed at night.

“I was feeling dizzy all the time,” Price says, “I could be in bed and I would roll over and my head would spin.”

It all changed after Price became the 750th patient to undergo transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) at Parkwest Medical Center earlier this year.

A history of health issues

Price has a history of heart- related health problems, including three strokes and a balloon stent in her heart. When she moved to East Tennessee to be near family, she didn’t know she was also moving near a place that would renew her heart.

After seeing a local cardiologist about her symptoms, Price was referred to Ayaz Rahman, MD. Dr. Rahman is several Covenant Health physicians who are trained and certified perform the TAVR procedure.

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a minimally invasive procedure to replace a narrowed aortic valve. When a valve begins to close off, it keeps blood from flowing properly  into the body – a potentially life threatening condition.

There was a time when open- heart surgery was the only way  to remedy a failing aortic valve. With TAVR, a replacement valve can be inserted without open heart surgery by threading a new valve through an artery in the groin or stomach up to the heart.

The right procedure

Dr. Ayaz Rahman in white lab coat, and tie. Price was suffering the effects of a left valve that was nearly closed putting her life at  risk.  Dr. Rahman explained the TAVR procedure, and why he thought it might be right for Price.

“Dr. Rahman is very considerate and he explains things to you,” Price says. “He explained it to where I understood. He’s a very caring doctor.”

Price underwent several  tests to make  sure  the procedure was right for her. When she was cleared, a date was set and she checked in at Parkwest Medical Center for TAVR.

“That’s a great hospital,” Price says. “They were always right there when I needed them – and it was the cleanest hospital I’ve ever been in.”

After the procedure, it didn’t take Price long to know that something was different. “I was feeling good,” Price says. “I mean, it was like – wow! I couldn’t believe the change.”

She wasn’t the only one who noticed. When her husband came into the room he could see it, too. “She was still in the hospital bed and I could tell a difference,” Dale Price says. “Just the way she was breathing,  and  she  could sit up and do some little things without getting winded like she normally would.”

Today Price counts her blessings with every step she takes and with every beat of her heart. TAVR has given her the ability to breathe and move more easily and make the most of those family visits.

“I love my husband, I love my kids, I love my grandkids,” Price says. “I live for them.”

Price hopes to live long enough to see all of her grandchildren get married. While she says the length of her life is in God’s hands, she also knows that because of TAVR, it’s more likely she’ll be able to have her heart’s desire.

750 and counting!

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) gained FDA approval in 2012, and in June of the same year Parkwest Medical Center saw its very first TAVR patient. Interventional cardiologist Ayaz Rahman, MD, says the procedure has come a long way. “We have per formed over 750 TAVRs at Parkwest and every year we’ve had incremental growth,” Dr. Rahman says. “As the therapy has become more sophisticated, so has our ability to deliver it.”

Dr. Rahman is the director of Parkwest’s structural heart and valve program, which includes three interventional cardiologists, three cardiothoracic surgeons, three anesthesiologists, a nurse practitioner and a patient navigator who supports the patient as he or she moves through the treatment process.

In addition, input is sought as needed from consulting providers such as nephrologists, electrophysiologists, vascular surgeons, and the patient’s referring cardiologist. Miranda James, RN, serves as coordinator, carefully managing every step of the patient’s journey.

“We strive to provide excellent care, which encompasses a multidisciplinary approach, assessing the patient as a whole so that we achieve the best outcome: improving the quality of life for our patients,” James says. Having grown up in East Tennessee, Dr. Rahman wanted to bring home the same type of therapy that’s offered at larger hospitals, with the same level of quality. Today, the quality of the TAVR procedure performed at Parkwest is on par with – or exceeds – what is found in larger medical centers. It’s also available to more patients than ever before.

“It was once thought of only for patients who were too frail or maybe elderly or had multiple medical problems that would prohibit them from having surgery,” Dr. Rahman says, “but now we can see that it even applies to folks who are still very active and involved in their professions. It allows them to have a quicker recovery so they can get back to the things they enjoy.”

TAVR: a proven method

In a healthy heart, the aortic valve opens with every heartbeat, releasing blood to the aorta (the body’s main artery). By the time a person reaches the age of 80, the valve has opened an estimated three billion times. If the valve narrows, blood can’t go forward without the heart working extremely hard to push it. It can be dangerous and even life threatening if left untreated.

For many years, open heart surgery was the only option when a valve malfunctioned. Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) has become the gold standard for replacing faulty valves. TAVR is easier on the body, allowing a faster recovery. Instead of opening the chest
and physically handling a heart to switch valves, a new valve goes in by way of a catheter.

Covenant Health was a local leader in the TAVR procedure from the start, and 750 procedures later, it is far from experimental therapy. Patients’ aortic valves have been successfully replaced through TAVR procedures performed at Parkwest since 2012, and East Tennessee is now filled with patients who are enjoying a better quality of life as a result.

TAVR is a highly specialized form of treatment that isn’t available in every part of the country. To learn more about TAVR at Parkwest and Covenant Health, visit www.TreatedWell.com/TAVR or call (865) 373-7942.