New procedure may replace open-heart surgery

66-year-old David Gerassi is doing a whole lot better in just a short time.

"I would walk half a block, I stop then recoup," he said. 

His diagnosis - Calcific Aortic Valve Stenosis - a condition typically seen in older patients that could be deadly if left untreated.

While open heart surgery which can take months to recover from has long been the solution for middle-aged, low risk patients, results from a new trial done by doctors at St. Francis Hospital found that TAVR - known as transcatheter aortic-valve replacement may be a reasonable alternative.

Dr. Newell Robinson and his team use a tissue valve sewn to a metallic frame. When crimped into a catheter it can be advanced inside the diseased valve. Once released it pushes the old one out of the way.

"TAVR is the replacement of the aortic valve using a catheter based procedure that the catheter it’s inserted into the artery in the groin, you’re awake, you don’t have to go on the heart lung machine, procedure takes about an hour and fifteen minutes and you usually go home the next day," said Robinson who is the chairman of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery at St. Francis Hospital.

Gerassi underwent surgery using the TAVR procedure in January.

"I got up, was in recovery, I felt like I was 25 years old," he said.

TAVR has been proven effective in older high risk patients but after this trial it appears to be as effective a surgery for all patients regardless of risk.

"To be able to have a therapy that can be done non-invasively and can be done with a 30 day mortality between 1-2% is revolutionary," said Dr. George Petrossian, Co-Director of the Heart Valve Center.

Gerassi and other patients included in the trial will be monitored over the next five to ten years. The results may change modern medicine and the treatment for aortic valve disease as we know it.