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Catheter procedure alternative to open-heart surgery

November 22, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
This Thanksgiving, a 94-year-old Santa Monica woman is grateful she's going to get to live a longer, healthier life. She was diagnosed with a condition that was inoperable because of her age. Now she's singing the praises of a new heart procedure.

Vivian Valentine, 94, had a weakened aortic valve known as aortic stenosis. Her heart couldn't move blood properly through her body.

The conventional treatment: open heart surgery to replace the valve. That's not an option for patients Vivian's age.

Aortic stenosis patients too frail for open-heart surgery would slowly diminish. Studies show only 50 percent survive the first year after showing symptoms.

"So transcatheter aortic valve replacement is an attraction option for these types of patients," said Dr. William Suh, Ronald Reagan Medical Center.

The minimally invasive procedure is called TAVR for short. Suh inserted a catheter through Vivian's leg and up into her heart. A new valve is threaded and is opened up once inside the diseased one.

A day after the hour-long treatment, Vivian was walking around and she felt re-energized.

"Well I don't know how they did it, but they did it," said Vivian.

"Oftentimes patients that have open-heart surgery will need to be in the hospital for a week. But as many of our patients with TAVR have done, they've gone home within three days," said Suh.

It's been a week since her surgery and Vivian and this holiday season she's is looking forward to seeing her seven grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and three great-greats.

"I really realized how blessed I am," said Vivian.

Her 71-year-old son Lynn can't believe his mother's remarkable recovery.

"It's amazing," said Lynn.

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