Why TAVR is an alternative to open heart surgery

Why TAVR is an alternative to open heart surgery

LEXINGTON, SC (WIS) - Could some open heart surgeries as we know them become a thing of the past? There's a  procedure called TAVR gaining momentum at Lexington Medical Center. And for a Richland County deputy, it's just what the doctor ordered.

Gene Mincey works cold cases - unsolved murders - for the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

"This lady says, I'm 86. I hope you can bring me some closure before I die," Mincey said. 

The woman's son had disappeared in 1982. Mincey is trying to help her and other family members of victims in cold cases find answers.

He's one of those law enforcement investigators who puts his heart into his work. And sometimes that hurts.

"I think the best thing is bringing some kind of closure for the victim's family ," Mincey said.

Mincey won't give up on his work. But at 74, his heart was giving out on him. And he wasn't a candidate for an open heart surgery so his doctor introduced him to an alternative.

"He said, 'well before we used to have to cut you down the middle and pull you open,' and well not cut you, but saw you," Mincey said. "They have to saw you open, I understand. And, uh, he said, 'it's like putting a stint in.' And I said sure enough. Let's do it."

The procedure is called TAVR which stands for transcatheter aortic valve replacement; it's considered one of the greatest advances in cardiac technology.

Dr. Bobby Leonardi and his colleagues at Lexington Medical Center have now performed more than 80 TAVR
operations. They replace the aortic valve with this "jewel of a crown" if you will using a catheter instead of opening the chest cavity. 

"We place a little tiny needle, a little tiny wire and progressively larger catheters into the artery there and then ultimately take a catheter into the heart and place a wire into the heart and then use that wire as kind of a monorail to keep everything on track into the aortic valve where we position the new valve," Leonardi said. "The device is either 23, 26 or 29 millimeters in size and when it's being inserted it goes through a tube that is about the size or smaller of my little finger and so it gets much smaller and is expanded by a balloon within the diseased aortic valve to get to about this size so that the leaflets can begin to function."

The patient does not have to be put to sleep, and the noninvasiveness makes for a quick recovery.  
TAVR costs roughly $30,000. Many insurance plans cover it.

Copyright 2015 WIS. All rights reserved.