Doctor: Heart procedure adding years onto patients' lives

Fran Swaney

When you meet Fran Swaney you instantly sense her vivacious personality. She loves staying active and comes to her church quilting club once a week.

"We make charity quilts since 2012 and we've made over 500," Fran said.

Fran still does all of her own grocery shopping and even makes time to spend with family but about eight months ago something changed.

"I got to the place where I couldn't breathe," Fran stated. I could take maybe five steps and I'd have to sit down because I couldn't breathe. I couldn't make a bed or do housework."

Fran's doctor concluded over her lifetime, she had developed aortic stenosis or a narrowing or her aortic valve. This was causing the shortness of breath.

So, she was referred to Dr. Nick Slocum at Munson Medical Center for a heart procedure called TAVR.

"TAVR is the trans-catheter valve replacement implantation," Dr. Slocum said. "TAVR which is a replacement of your valve with a new valve via cath through the groin. It's done for patients with a high risk for open heart surgery or who are at such a risk that's the best option."

Dr. Slocum says most patients like Fan develop aortic stenosis in their 70s or 80s and TAVR, which started in 2012, provides a minimally invasive solution.

"Patients always have life experiences and they're in a bad position," Dr. Solcum said. "They have a valvular heart disease problem that is likely to take their life in the next two years if nothing happens. This does add time to their life for sure and it always changes the quality of their life."

"I was in the hospital for four days and went home for the next week," Fran added. "I was driving my car and I've been going ever since -- I got a new lease on life!"

Fran says the effects of TAVR were immediate and now she just has cardiac rehab twice a week until the middle of September.

"I could breathe as soon as I woke up," Fran stated. "I didn't have any pain medication with the surgery. I would highly recommend it."

Fran's regained her active lifestyle and even her sense of humor.

"They nicknamed me 'queen Franie' because I have a crown in my heart!"

Dr. Slocum says outcomes like Fran's are evidence TAVR is revolutionizing heart healthcare.

"Most patients regain a lot of what they were missing and recover quickly and feel better almost instantaneously," Dr. Slocum said. "This has been an incredibly important procedure world-wide for advancement in cardiology, It's patient coming to a program and getting the minds of a lot of specialist. This is the tip of the iceberg for minimally invasive heart surgery."