New Heart Procedure Is the Tip of the Iceberg for Benefis Heart and Vascular

‚ÄčThe first two patients to undergo a transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, at Benefis left for home just a day after their successful and trailblazing procedures.

"The procedure went so well that I expect this program to grow quickly," cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Steven Bailey said. "This bodes well for the future." 

KRTV: Benefis Health System begins offering a new type of heart surgery.

Need heart help? Learn more about the Benefis Heart and Vascular Institute. 

Dr. Bailey and interventional cardiologist Dr. Shawn Kelly and their team ran an artificial heart valve into place through the femoral artery during the inaugural Benefis TAVR on Tuesday, April 12. The valve is crimped small enough to travel to the heart via the artery and is then opened up in place. The failing valve stays.

Dr. Kelly, who directs the TAVR program, said the difference is dramatic for patients.

A typical valve replacement involves a three-to-five-hour operation, four to seven days in the ICU, weakness, and the physiological and psychological work of healing from open-heart surgery. 

With TAVR, the patient has local anesthesia and sedation. They don't feel pain, they don't have a wound to heal, they have far less chance of picking up an infection, and they're home the next day.

The instant the new valve is in place, the patient is healed, Dr. Bailey said.

"This really makes a change in patients' lives," he added. "It is astonishing." 

A failing heart valve can lead to the heart struggling to pump enough blood through the body, causing chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, fatigue, swelling, and other symptoms.

Before being part of the TAVR procedure, Dr. Bailey would have said the biggest leap forward he's seen in cardiac surgery was endovascular abdominal aneurysm repair, or EVAR, which is a minimally invasive procedure to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm. TAVR has supplanted that ranking.

Benefis has sent patients to university hospitals in other states for TAVR, but that presents a difficult financial and time burden on the patients and their families. Bringing these services close to home matters.

The goal is to continue to expand the structural heart offerings at Benefis, with more new procedures soon to follow. This will make a meaningful difference for our patients, such as reducing travel and increasing the number of patients who qualify for a procedure who may have been ruled out by the rigors of open-heart surgery.

Dr. Kelly noted the inaugural Benefis TAVR was performed nearly 20 years to the day from the first TAVR, performed April 16, 2002, at the Charles Nicolle University Hospital in Rouen, France. At first, the procedure was limited to patients for whom open-heart surgery would be a high risk. It's since expanded to a broader population.

Benefis expects to perform the procedure regularly going forward.