Minimally Invasive Procedure Replaces Open Heart Surgery - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Minimally Invasive Procedure Replaces Open Heart Surgery

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    A local woman is relieved she was a candidate for a new innovative procedure for a common heart problem.  It was created for people who can't risk open heart surgery.  Fern Boismier allowed us in the operating room, as surgeons at Memorial Hermann performed the procedure on her.  It's called Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement procedure or TAVR for short.  Doctors say it's a great new option and the "Heart & Vascular Institute" at Memorial Hermann Southwest is one of only three hospitals offering it in our area.  88 year old Fern laughingly states at one point, she was "bright-eyed and bushy tailed, but says she's now blurry-eyed and draggy tailed!"  Her surgeons had big plans to change that.  She was diagnosed with aortic stenosis three years ago.  That means her aortic heart valve doesn't open fully, which restricts blood flow.  That makes her heart work harder to pump blood to her body, which causes all kinds of problems.

   "The symptoms can be chest pain, shortness of breath, on the extreme heart failure, syncope or passing out.  Once the symptoms begin, the death rate increases dramatically.  Once you have heart failure, your two year survival rate is essentially zero," explains Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Earl Mangin with Memorial Hermann.  Fern says she's proud of her team of surgeons and has confidence they're going to help her feel better.  She says she was definitely "living on borrowed time".  She says her doctors in Michigan told her that she wasn't young enough for surgery and that she would die from her condition.  She sure is relieved she found a different opinion in Houston.  

    They offered her a new state-of-the-art procedure, to spare her life.  "I think he didn't look at my wrinkles, but he said, "You're too young NOT to think about doing this," says Fern.  She happily agreed to to undergo a procedure, recently approved by the FDA for patients at risk of open heart surgery.  "The procedure in the past was to replace the valve that you were born with - with a prosthetic valve.  In this procedure, we put a large tube in the groin, insert a wire across the stenotic valve, and use a balloon to make the opening bigger," explains Dr. Mangin.  Instead of removing her own heart valve, they just place a new one in her damaged valve, all while her heart is still beating!  

    Not everyone is a candidate for this surgery.  "For the time being, the procedure is only approved for patients who are considered high-risk for surgery.  That would include patients who are frail, medical problems like lung disease, hemotalogical problems, or sometimes cancer, previous radiation to the chest," says Dr. Mangin.  Fern's relieved she was a candidate, and has lots of future plans.  "Being 89 this summer, I don't expect to have a whole lot of years left, but I'd like to enjoy as much of them as I can with my family," says Fern.  She was most anxious to go camping with her kids and play more with her great-granddaughter.  "In life, your attitude has a lot to do with the way you are and how you feel.  I just think, if the Lord is willing, it'll be a success," Fern explains.  Several months after the procedure, Fern says she feels better than she has in years.  In fact, she says she felt better, as soon as she woke up from surgery.  She can even walk a half mile, almost a mile comfortably.  Before, she couldn't walk across the room without having to stop to catch her breath!  She has even been on a week-long camping trip.  Her loving husband, Oscar, of 65 years is thrilled to see her doing so well.  They count their anniversary in months - 788 months, almost 789.  Fern says recovery was easy, and we're sure it was, after hearing how Oscar spoiled her.  

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