The WellSpan Spotlight

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When heart valves need to be fixed, WellSpan offers world-class treatment

When heart valves need to be fixed, WellSpan offers world-class treatment

Heart valve disease results in almost 30,000 deaths every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. This type of disease can have several causes including congenital conditions, infections, degenerative conditions that cause valves to wear out with age, and conditions linked to other heart conditions. 

If there is severe valve disease, surgery may be necessary. WellSpan cardiologists offer the latest treatments for valve disease. 

In particular, WellSpan cardiologists are leading experts in replacing a valve via the minimally invasive transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure, helping patients avoid open-heart surgery. Since 2012, they have performed more than 1,200 TAVR procedures. In fact, they have become so adept at the complex procedure that they have shared their expertise with other physicians around the globe. 

We asked WellSpan cardiologist Dr. James Harvey about advances in valve treatments and how these treatments benefit patients in our communities. 

How has the treatment of valve disease changed in the past 10 years? 

The last 10 years have shown a great improvement in our ability to treat patients with valve disease. We now can repair or replace severely diseased valves without having to open the chest or stop the heart.  What does this mean for our patients?  More people can be safely treated, including very high-risk patients who were previously too sick to be treated.  And most of them can go home the day after their valve is replaced or repaired, with no prolonged hospitalization or need for physical rehabilitation.   

What are some of the valve disease treatments that WellSpan offers? 

WellSpan offers all available valve therapies, including valve replacement or repair through surgery.  We also offer Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), a minimally invasive therapy, where the aortic valve is replaced with a catheter inserted in the leg artery.  Similarly, we routinely perform non-surgical mitral valve repair or replacement via a specialized catheter that also is inserted in the leg vein.    

How have WellSpan cardiologists collaborated with others around the globe to share their expertise in this field? 

When TAVR was first introduced 10 years ago, it was game-changing and saved lives. We wanted to keep making it better. So, our team at WellSpan and a team at UPMC collaboratively developed a new technique to deliver a new valve. The results were so positive, that our new technique has been adopted as "best practice" throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. 

Since then, I have been privileged to oversee physicians who are learning this technique for use in hospitals in more than 20 states around the country.  Additionally, our team has performed live demonstrations of this procedure, both for local audiences and broadcast to other hospitals in the United States, Europe, and Scandinavia.  

Want to learn more? Register for Dr. Harvey's free virtual Heart Month talk here. See WellSpan's complete Heart Month schedule here.