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Health Beat: Helping high-risk hearts

By Melanie Falcon, Anchor / Reporter, @Melanie_Falcon, MFalcon@wfmz.com
Published On: May 07 2014 09:51:13 AM CDT
Updated On: May 07 2014 04:42:59 PM CDT

Ironing is not exactly Barbara Roy's favorite activity, but it’s something she’s glad she can do again.

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -

Ironing is not exactly Barbara Roy's favorite activity, but it’s something she’s glad she can do again.

"I'd probably iron a couple pieces and then have to come out here and sit down and rest," said Roy, whose doctor diagnosed her with severe aortic stenosis. "I didn't think I was going to make it. I couldn’t breathe."

Because of her age, 82, and other health problems, she was considered a high-risk patient.

"[They] said no way could I ever be operated on," she said.

Left untreated, 50 percent of patients will die within two years, said Dr. Augusto Villa, interventional cardiologist at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center and medical director of the Valve Clinic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

"Their prognosis is extremely poor," Villa said. "It’s as poor as lung cancer. In five years, only four percent will survive."

Now, there's a new option for patients who can't have open heart surgery, known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR.

A balloon catheter is placed through either the groin or ribs. Once in position, it inflates, placing the artificial heart valve and restoring blood flow.

"I think it's an amazing, amazing technology," Villa said.

Unlike traditional surgery, the heart continues to beat during the TAVR procedure and there's no need to place a patient on a heart-lung machine. Patients can go home in four to five days and expect to get back to normal activities in one to two weeks.

A month after surgery, Roy is back doing chores, thankful that she can.

"I cook. I do dishes. I do laundry," she said.

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