“I got a new aortic valve—without open heart surgery!”

Ken Darby sought relief from his aortic stenosis. A month after the procedure his doctors recommended, he’s power walking with his wife!

Health Monitor Staff
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aortic stenosis, heart valve, open heart surgery

One of Ken and Annette Darby’s favorite pastimes is taking a walk around the lake they live on in Yorba Linda, CA. Some days, they will take the hillier route. It takes a bit more “wind” than the flatter path, but these days, Ken is up to it.

Not so earlier this year, when the couple’s usual stroll resulted in chest pain and shortness of breath, sending the 75-year-old retired educator to his cardiologist.

“He did an echocardiogram and an angiogram and said, ‘We’ve got to do something with the aortic valve.’ The opening of the valve was .9 cm. It should have been 2.6 cm!”

It wasn’t a complete shock to Ken. Back in 2006, doctors had discovered his aortic stenosis while performing bypass surgery. Ever since, he and his cardiologist had been monitoring his condition with regular angiograms and echocardiograms.

No doubt, it was time for a valve replacement. But what to do? Ken wasn’t a candidate for open-heart surgery—for one, he had emphysema; for another, the bypass surgery had left scar tissue behind. So his doctor recommended him for a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure.

After having endured open-heart surgery, Ken was open to this new non-invasive approach. He had the TAVR on a Thursday. After a day in the ICU, he was roaming the halls with a portable monitor. By Monday, he was back home! 

Getting ready for TAVR?
Here’s what Ken suggests:

Learn about the procedure
“You can find out a lot online—even watch videos of the procedure being performed. It helps to know what you’re getting into.” Ken also visited the hospital ahead of time: “It’s important to have confidence in the people who are going to be caring for you. I went to the hospital to look around and meet the Heart Team.”

Draft a caregiver
“I hadn’t anticipated needing help with the incision in my groin. I’d had two or three angiograms in the past and they’re no big deal. But, this time, I got a little sore and tender—it surprised me. Taking care of the incision—keeping it clean and bandaged—would have been difficult to do on my own. My wife, Annette, helped me with that!”

Don’t be in a rush
“Take it easy for a few days after the procedure. You can resume most activities pretty quickly, as long as you don’t exert yourself for the first couple of weeks. And unlike my experience with open-heart surgery, where I couldn’t drive for fear of the airbag popping against my chest, with TAVR, I was driving the day after I got home!”

October 2014