Oakwood offers new heart valve replacement procedure

High risk cardiac patients have a new surgical option at the Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center (OHMC) in Dearborn.

Patients who were once ineligible for potentially life-saving heart surgery can benefit from a new minimally invasive procedure that can have them back on their feet, resuming their normal lifestyle within a matter of days, according to Reza Dabir, MD, a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon who has performed several of the procedures, known as Trans-Catheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR).

Through the procedure, surgeons can now replace cardiac valves through a catheter that is inserted either in the groin or through a small incision at the side of the chest.

“It is no longer necessary to open the chest for this,” said Dabir. “By avoiding that high-risk surgery, patients get back to their regular activity with minimal restrictions after a short recovery time.”

The TAVR procedure has been available for about a decade in Europe and was approved in the U.S. about three years ago. Oakwood is among the first in the region to offer it to high-risk patients, according to Samir Dabbous, MD, FACC, Director, Heart and Vascular Services and Cardiac Cath Lab at OHMC.

“It is a new, better option that we are now able to offer to the community,” said Dabbous. ““It is an orchestration of the cardiology team and the cardiac surgery team working together during surgery. This is a tremendous advancement that will help our patients live longer, fuller lives.”

The technology came just in time to help Dearborn resident Larry Cotton, one of the first recipients of the TAVR procedure at Oakwood. Considered a high-risk patient due to a four-way bypass he underwent six years ago, Cotton said he was informed by Dabbous that he needed valve replacement surgery during a regular follow up visit two years ago. Then 76, his cardiac care team decided open heart surgery—the only option available at the time—was too risky for him. After screening showed he was eligible, he underwent the TAVR procedure in July, was released from the hospital three days later and given approval to resume his regular lifestyle a week later.

“I’m feeling great,” said Cotton. “I’ve got a lot more energy now. Before, when I walked while out deer hunting, I would get a little short of breath. I feel much better now, like I’m getting more oxygen.”

Dabir said the quick recovery time was one of the main benefits of the procedure. It is also less risky than open heart surgery, and less stressful on patients and their families.

“The average open heart patient is in the hospital for one week. They can drive a car in four weeks and return to normal activity in three months,” said Dabir. “A TAVR patient is home in two to four days and can resume life as normal soon after that.

“The important thing is that there are minimal restrictions when the patient does return home,” he added.

Although safer than open heart surgery, the TAVR procedure includes some risks—as with any surgical procedure. Patients must be screened to determine if they are eligible, and there are certain criteria that can exclude them, Dabbous said.