When Bob Partridge’s cardiologist told him it was time to treat his faulty heart valve, Bob was very aware of the problem. He couldn’t walk the 14 steps from his basement to the kitchen without stopping to catch his breath or even make it across his yard. Bob’s aortic valve had narrowed, obstructing blood flow. His heart straining to pump enough blood left him profoundly tired and weak.
Bob had severe aortic valve stenosis, a condition primarily treated by replacing the valve during open-heart surgery. Because Bob has a stoma — a permanent opening in his neck to breathe following treatment for laryngeal cancer — a chest wound from operating on his heart might become infected. Open-heart surgery was too risky for Bob, but his interventional cardiologist, Gordon Kritzer, MD, FACC, had a less invasive treatment in mind.
Bob learned he could receive his new heart valve by way of a balloon catheter inserted through a small incision in his groin. Known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, a new valve is guided through an artery all the way to the heart, then expanded to replace the damaged valve. A newly constructed operating suite with the advanced imaging capability needed to perform TAVR had just opened at Virginia Mason. Bob would be the first patient to undergo the procedure there.
“I had no objection; they are great doctors,” says Bob. “I have a lot of faith in Dr. Kritzer, and Dr. Velamoor (cardiac surgeon Gautam R. Velamoor, MD, FACS) really impressed me. I said let’s do it. Somebody has to be first.”
Right after the procedure, Dr. Kritzer reported to Bob’s wife, Jacolyn, that everything had gone very well and she’d be able to see him in a few minutes. “He got such good care afterward, they were really on the case,” remembers Jacolyn. “His recuperation was so much easier than it would have been with open-heart surgery.”
Bob went home only five days after having TAVR. He wore a monitor for the first couple of weeks to track his heart rate, but didn’t feel any pain or other effects from the procedure. What he did feel was back to normal, walking and taking the stairs like he used to, without getting winded.
“My laryngectomy was a big operation, but TAVR wasn’t anything compared to that,” says Bob. “I was very willing to go along with it because I like my doctors, I know them. It was a good experience.”