Published on January 06, 2020

TAVR procedure keeps Oconomowoc businessman going all day

More than 170 ProHealth Care patients with aortic stenosis have benefitted from a minimally invasive procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, known as TAVR. The procedure improves cardiac function and quality of life.

Surgeons perform a TAVR procedure.Oconomowoc business professional Bill Jaehnert, 69, had the TAVR procedure at ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital in August. After his surgery, he completed a series of 36 cardiac rehabilitation sessions.

“I was back at full strength in a month’s time, doing things I was doing before,” Jaehnert said. “I think that’s quite commendable.”

Jaehnert had been receiving care for arrhythmia, an irregular heart rhythm, since 2018, yet the diagnosis of aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the valve in the large blood vessel branching off the heart, this past summer came as a surprise.

“After you get over the shock and start researching the disease, you realize that you have to get it taken care of,” he said. “I met with the surgeons and cardiologists and they explained why I needed a valve replacement and exactly how they could do it. I wasn’t excited about open chest surgery. When I heard about TAVR, I was all for it.”

The TAVR procedure

Unlike open surgery, a TAVR procedure requires only tiny incisions, a catheter and computer imaging. During the procedure, a replacement valve is implanted using a catheter. The team at the UW Health Heart & Vascular Center at ProHealth Care performs the procedure at Waukesha Memorial. Most patients require only mild intravenous sedatives. It is not uncommon for patients to be released from the hospital the day after the procedure.

“TAVR has changed outcomes in cardiology and cardiac surgery unlike anything in the past 25 years,” said William Burns, MD, an interventional cardiologist. “People in their 90s are now having valve replacements. Individual patients at prohibitive risk, and now intermediate risk, for open surgery are being considered for TAVR. Some low-risk patients are also being referred for TAVR after shared decision-making discussions between the patient and the cardiologist.”

Dr. Burns said clinical trials have found that outcomes for TAVR and open valve replacement surgery are equivalent for intermediate-risk patients, and that TAVR may be appropriate for select low-risk patients.

Aortic stenosis patients are carefully evaluated for valve replacement. Patients who qualify for valve replacement meet with a surgeon and interventional cardiologist to thoroughly review and discuss treatment options, desired outcomes and risks.

“Given the option, most people will choose the minimally invasive procedure,” Dr. Burns said.

Bill Jaehnert is pleased he chose TAVR.

“There’s a significant difference in how I feel,” he said. “Before the TAVR I was tired all the time. I took it easy for the week afterward and then started doing things. Now I get up in the morning and keep going all day.”

Coordinated care

ProHealth TAVR patients are cared for by a multidisciplinary heart team, a critical component for achieving optimal outcomes. Collaboration among cardiothoracic surgeons and interventional cardiologists is a core factor in the TAVR team’s success. Among other vital team members are the surgical staff, anesthesiologists, echocardiographers, cardiac catheterization lab professionals, advanced practice providers and a program coordinator. TAVR patients also receive cardiac rehabilitation services from ProHealth therapists.

TAVR program coordinator Ashley Verhyen assists patients by scheduling tests and follow-up visits at the patient’s convenience. Tests can be scheduled on the same day, and follow-up visits and tests can be scheduled before discharge from the hospital.

“The follow-up has been phenomenal,” Jahnert said. “I look forward to having a more productive life,” he said.

Symptoms of aortic stenosis

Signs of aortic stenosis include the symptoms listed below. Urge anyone you know to seek medical care for symptoms that might be related to heart and vascular issues.

  • Breathlessness.
  • Chest pain (angina), pressure or tightness.
  • Fainting, also called syncope.
  • Palpitations or a feeling of heavy, pounding, or noticeable heartbeats.
  • Decline in activity level or reduced ability to do normal activities requiring mild exertion.
  • Heart murmur.

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