Patient Story: Getting TAVI Just in Time

February 8, 2021

*To protect the identity of this patient, the individual’s name and some details have been removed*

My heart valve disease journey began approximately three-four years ago when, during some routine blood work, my family doctor referred me to a cardiac specialist after noting something that concerned him in my heart rhythms as he had consistently noted in prior visits. This referral was for diagnostic tests including an echocardiogram, stress tests, and an electrocardiogram (EKG) approximately six months apart to see if there were indeed heart problems or if it was something that would clear up. My last follow-up test indicated that the issue was not getting any better. Turned out, my problem was a narrowing of the aortic valve that was causing heart murmurs due to the build-up of plaque in the valve, and they also discovered a leaky valve.

In early 2020, before the Coronavirus had impacted medical procedures and treatments, my wife and I were advised by my healthcare team that it was time to make a decision to either pursue heart valve replacement surgery or leave as-is and accept whatever became of it in the future. The doctor emphasized that now was the time for correction and that waiting would only allow my condition to worsen. It was causing me a lot of tiredness, some heart pain, and I was out of breath even when doing some minor outside work – I felt increased exhaustion and was unable to do the activities I used to with the same ease.

Then, one day in the summer, I started having a lot of digestion problems and some increase in soreness around the heart. I reported that to my doctor and was quickly booked for surgery two weeks later. I was told I would be a model patient for the minimally invasive type of treatment I’d receive as it would not be open heart surgery, which would require a careful and prolonged recovery time. Rather, they would use two veins in the groin area and insert a small camera on a wire into the vein and work it through to the heart. In the second vein, they would insert a small balloon to open the vein and then implant an aortic valve to replace the old one. This procedure is known as Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation or TAVI. I would be kept overnight in hospital, with a plan to be discharged the next afternoon after another echocardiogram was done to confirm a successful surgery.

My procedure was completed in July 2020 and was one of the last done before COVID-19 prevented them from being performed for a period of time. I was discharged and home a total of 22 hours after the procedure was completed.

My condition has been corrected and, while being 83 years old means I still tire easily, I do not tire as quickly or as bad as before the treatment. My doctor told me years ago that a heart problem like mine would not be able to be treated without difficult surgery and a long recovery, and told me the chances of problems afterwards were a lot higher. I am very thankful for the way it all worked out and do not hesitate to recommend this treatment option to anyone experiencing a similar problem who is also a candidate for TAVI. I was very fortunate - I had no infection or other complications and my recovery was extremely painless and very quick. I required minimal medications post-surgery, which I believe is a benefit of my type of treatment as compared to a more traditional surgery.

I know this sounds like a breeze, but it all truly went smoothly despite it being a major heart issue. Again, I highly recommend this option if you are a candidate for it and encourage other patients to approach it in as relaxed a manor as possible even though it is a heart issue – it helps tremendously in the recovery stage.

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