Undergoing a transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, procedure was “quite honestly, the greatest decision” Bob Hoffee made about his heart.
Hoffee, who is 77 years old, had previously had open heart surgery and a triple bypass in 2014. Then, in January 2021, he and his wife Brenda were taking down Christmas decorations in their neighborhood when Bob started feeling short of breath and had tightness in his chest. He went to the Dosher Memorial Hospital emergency room, then was transferred to NHRMC, where he stayed for a few days, then underwent six weeks of recovery at home.
Looking back, “I think we were walking around with him in congestive heart failure, and we had no idea,” Brenda said.
In order to help alleviate Bob’s heart trouble, Bob, Brenda, and NHRMC’s cardiac team decided he should have a pacemaker and defibrillator put in his heart. They also decided he should undergo a TAVR procedure to repair his aortic stenosis, which occurs when the heart’s large blood vessel (the aorta) narrows and blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body is restricted. Aortic stenosis is often caused by calcium buildup on the aortic valve, which occurs primarily in people in their 70s and 80s. To fix it, surgeons put in a new heart valve, often made from a cow’s heart valve.
With the TAVR procedure, surgeons run a catheter through the patient’s groin to insert a new valve. Patients have a much quicker recovery time compared to open heart surgery: After a TAVR, most patients are up and walking the evening of their procedure, and about 80 percent of them go home the next day, said Lance Lewis, MD, the interventional cardiologist who worked on Bob’s heart. With open heart surgery, where surgeons make an incision in the patient’s chest to insert the new valve, patients usually spend three to five days in the hospital after the surgery and need weeks or months to recover.
“The procedure itself, in my case, was painless,” Bob said. “After being home for a few days, I felt five years younger.”
The heart team recently performed their 500th TAVR procedure, marking a milestone after seven years of using the procedure. Bob’s operation was a bit unusual, going through the aorta rather than the groin, and Dr. Lewis said the team was able to perform it so well because of their experience with the procedure.
“Had we not [performed] 400 to 500 cases, we would not have been able to offer that to him,” Dr. Lewis said.
Brenda said their experience with the NHRMC heart team was seamless.
“The team explained everything to us in such way that made the decision a very easy one for us,” she said. “That’s not to say we weren’t concerned and frightened, but we got so much good information and felt so confident in the doctors.”