TAVR Mends the Hearts of "Diamond Anniversary" Couple

Mary Jane had been leading an active life traveling with family and volunteering at her church. But a racing heartbeat sometimes slowed her down. One day, it wouldn’t stop.

When she went to Allegheny Health Network (AHN) for answers, doctors discovered signs of heart valve disease. Mary Jane needed a new valve, but with a history of lung cancer, she couldn’t have open-heart valve replacement surgery.

Thankfully, TAVR made it possible to get the treatment she needed. “TAVR truly is a life-saving option for patients at high risk for traditional valve replacement surgery, ” said Stephen Bailey, MD, director of Cardiac Surgery at Allegheny General Hospital.

Allegheny General Hospital was among the first medical centers in the U.S. offering this revolutionary procedure. In fact, doctors with the Cardiovascular Institute have performed nearly 1,000 TAVR procedures since 2012.

With TAVR, doctors use X-ray imaging and long tubes (catheters) to guide the replacement valve up to the heart through an artery in the groin. When the replacement valve is in the correct position, a balloon at the tip of the catheter locks it into place, pushing the diseased valve tissue out of the way. The replacement valve immediately takes over the job of moving blood through the heart.

A quick return to daily activities

“TAVR means no major chest incision, less pain, and a shorter hospital stay,” according to David Lasorda, DO, director of Interventional Cardiology. And with Allegheny General Hospital’s experience performing so many TAVR procedures, Mary Jane made a quick recovery.

“I’ve had both knees replaced, a hip replaced, and a hysterectomy. TAVR was by far the easiest operation I’ve had,” she said. “I had the procedure at 5:30 p.m. and by 11:30 p.m. I was sitting up. The next morning I was up and walking, ate breakfast, and went home. How can you beat that?”

The perfect option for her husband, too

The success of Mary Jane’s procedure in October 2016 was a relief to her husband, Gene. The couple had recently celebrated their “diamond anniversary” after 60 years of marriage. So when he started experiencing the signs of heart valve disease, he knew he’d be in good hands at Allegheny General Hospital as well.

According to Dr. Bailey, TAVR was the perfect option for Gene, who was 89 when he had the procedure done in April 2018. He couldn’t have an open-heart procedure due to his age. He also had a history of heart disease, including a quadruple bypass procedure in 1998.

Like Mary Jane, Gene benefited from the TAVR expertise available at Allegheny General Hospital. AHN’s team approach, which included interventional cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, and cardiac imaging specialists, helped Gene receive care that met his unique needs.

Another TAVR, another happy ending

“The next day I felt good. I would have driven myself home from the hospital if I was allowed to,” said Gene.

In the weeks following the procedure, Gene said he felt great but not well enough to mow the lawn. “But how many 89-year-olds do you know who still cut their own grass?” remarked Mary Jane. “We’re really happy about our experience with TAVR and the care we received from our doctors. We love Allegheny General Hospital.”

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