New hope for narrow valves

New hope for narrow valves

Cardiologists, surgeons team up to offer life-extending procedure

By Czerne M. Reid

Cardiologist Dr. Anthony A. Bavry and interventional cardiologist Dr. R. David Anderson perform a catheterization procedure on a patient./Photo by Maria Belen Farias

For patients who have severe narrowing of the aortic valve, a condition known as aortic stenosis, standard treatment is surgical replacement of the damaged valve. But advanced age or medical problems such as lung disease prevent many of those patients from having open chest surgery. In the past, the best these patients could hope for was to control their symptoms with medications.

Now they can live longer, thanks to a new minimally invasive treatment that involves inserting an artificial valve that takes over the work of the diseased valve. UF is among a limited number of facilities around the country initially approved to offer the procedure.

“It’s exciting — this technology opens an option for patients who otherwise do not have a repair option,” said cardiologist Anthony A. Bavry, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of medicine. “Previously we had to treat these patients with medications, and unfortunately many did not do well. This is a big change.”

The new valve replacement technique, called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November 2011. Medical practices approved to perform the procedure had to demonstrate high levels of expertise and collaboration in cardiology and surgery, as well as high-quality facilities for conducting the procedure and collecting data for patient care and monitoring.

Bavry and R. David Anderson, M.D., M.S., director of interventional cardiology at UF, will team with thoracic and cardiovascular surgeons Thomas M. Beaver, M.D., M.P.H., and Charles T. Klodell, M.D., to do the procedure. Working in such multidisciplinary teams streamlines and speeds patient evaluation and decisions about the best course of action.

“You have both a surgeon and a cardiologist seeing a patient, reviewing the data and making the best decision about how to treat,” Bavry said.

Among the elderly, severe aortic stenosis is the most common abnormality of the heart valves. But up to one-third of such patients are considered ineligible for surgery. They are instead given medicines to control heart rate and blood pressure, and their heart volume is monitored to head off congestive heart failure. Medical treatments ease symptoms but do not prolong life.

In the new TAVR procedure, the artificial valve — framed by a stent and wrapped around a balloon — is transported up to the aortic valve via a large catheter in the leg. The new valve is then anchored into position inside the diseased valve by inflation of the balloon. Placement of the stent is monitored with X-ray and ultrasound imaging.

Patients’ survival chances improve with the new technique. In clinical trials involving 700 patients, treatment with the new procedure cut the death rate nearly in half after one year, compared with medical therapy alone.

“This is one of the best things that has happened in the last 10 years in interventional cardiology,” said Samir Kapadia, M.D., an interventional cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who is one of the leaders in clinical trials of the new technique.

The UF team is evaluating patients to see who might be good candidates for the procedure.