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Hospital celebrates first anniversary of TAVR surgery

By Will Lewis, Reporter, WLewis@wfmz.com
Published On: May 15 2013 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: May 16 2013 06:16:35 PM CDT

They were celebrating matters of the heart at Lehigh Valley Hospital's Cedar Crest campus on Thursday.

SALISBURY TWP., Pa. -

The Lehigh Valley Health Network is celebrating a surgical milestone.

It's been exactly one year since surgeons successfully performed a less invasive heart valve replacement procedure.

The doctors and patients reunited Thursday for show-and-tell day.

Thirty-eight people received the TAVR surgery over the last year.

The procedure is valve replacement surgery for candidates who are not eligible for open heart surgery.

It's a team that is celebrating working on hearts all across the Lehigh Valley, and performing a surgery that some say they couldn't imagine.

"Someday you and I are going to be putting artificial valves in people through catheters," said Dr. William Combs, with the Lehigh Valley Health Network. "At the time, I thought it was a pipe dream."

That dream became a reality on May 16, 2012. That was the first transcatheter aortic valve replacement, also known as TAVR.

"Conventional surgery is still the best solution for most patients but there is a whole host of patients who have medical problems that make them too high risk for conventional surgery," added Dr. Raymond Singer, from LVHN.

The patients are typically older or have already had open heart surgery.

The event was to celebrate life. Eight of the people are part of the 38 TAVR surgeries performed this year.

Ivan Dassylva is back to his regular routine just two months after his surgery.

"Go to the mall, go to casino, fix the house, work in the backyard," said Dassylva. "Only light work."

The valve is replaced after doctors insert a catheter in the leg or chest and then place it inside the old valve.

Doctors at LVHN said they are performing this type of procedure eight to 10 times a month, and it may become the norm for certain patients.

"You have to remember the population is getting older and as patients are getting older they are developing more heart problems but they are otherwise okay," said Singer.

Surgeons said the recovery time with the TAVR surgery is less than open heart surgery. Patients are usually back to their normal activity in a couple of weeks.