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Published on December 17, 2014

New heart valve procedure offered by UHS

UHS has begun offering a new type of valve surgery that will benefit many heart patients otherwise deemed inoperable or high-risk.

Four patients have already successfully undergone the procedure, known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), at UHS Wilson Medical Center.

The new method is designed for people who have severe aortic valve stenosis but who aren’t candidates for traditional operations.

UHS is the only Broome County-based healthcare system to offer the procedure, said Matthew J. Salanger, president and chief executive officer of UHS.

"This procedure is an exciting innovation that will improve the quality of life for many heart patients," Mr. Salanger said.  "We are committed to staying on the leading edge of technologies and procedures that benefit patients, and TAVR is another example  of how we're bringing top-level heart care home to the Southern Tier."

UHS Hospitals interventional cardiologist Alon Yarkoni, MD, noted: “Worldwide, more than 50,000 patients have had TAVR procedures, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved as a procedure in 2011.  In the research trials evaluating TAVR, it was shown to significantly allow patients to live longer and with a better quality of life when compared to treating with medicines only.”

Aortic valve stenosis - or aortic stenosis - occurs when the heart's aortic valve narrows. This narrowing prevents the valve from opening fully, which obstructs blood flow from the heart into the aorta and onward to the rest of the body.

When the aortic valve is obstructed, the heart needs to work harder to pump blood to the body. Eventually, this extra work limits the amount of blood it can pump and may weaken the heart muscle.

Somewhat similar to a stent placed in an artery, the TAVR approach delivers a fully collapsible replacement valve to the valve site through a catheter.  Access to the valve is through the large artery in the person's groin, rather than by opening the chest. 

Instead of removing the existing, damaged valve, a replacement valve is wedged into the existing valve’s place.  Once the new valve is expanded, it pushes the old valve leaflets out of the way and the tissue in the replacement valve takes over the job of regulating blood flow.  
The procedure is conducted by a multidisciplinary team that includes specially trained interventional cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, radiologists, anesthesiologists, nurses and technologists.

Home to the UHS Heart Institute, which launched in 2014, UHS has been a leader in heart-related care since the 1980s, when it brought open heart surgery to Greater Binghamton.  The healthcare system operates designated stroke and chest pain centers at UHS Wilson, a cardiac rehabilitation program at UHS Binghamton General and cardiac care programs on its UHS Chenango Memorial and UHS Delaware Valley hospital campuses.