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Back on the Farm After TAVR

For Joe Fields, life doesn’t get much better than when you’re enjoying the great outdoors – like working on his Midlands cattle farm or fishing on Lake Murray.
But a problem with his heart made that nearly impossible.

“With my symptoms, I could hardly do anything except sit down.”

The 72-year-old outdoorsman from Saluda had aortic stenosis. That’s a narrowing of the aortic valve, which is the valve that allows oxygenated blood out of the heart to the rest of the body. Patients with aortic stenosis have a valve that doesn’t open properly.

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Joe’s aortic stenosis was so severe that it left him with shortness of breath and chest pain. Simply climbing onto his tractor made him breathless. Betty, his wife of 53 years, says he even had trouble walking to the mailbox.

And it was worse at night.

“Lying in bed, I’d have to concentrate on breathing hard to get enough air through to keep me going,” he said.

Aortic stenosis can be a serious problem. As the heart works harder to pump enough blood through the smaller opening in the valve, the heart eventually becomes weak. Over time, that can lead to life-threatening heart problems. In fact, the life expectancy for people with severe, symptomatic aortic stenosis is less than two years.

IMG_9991At Lexington Medical Center in West Columbia, Joe learned about transcatheter aortic valve replacement, known as TAVR. This state-of-the-art cardiovascular technology allows doctors to replace the aortic valve with a catheter instead of performing open heart surgery. Lexington Medical Center began performing TAVR last spring.

Currently, TAVR is only for patients with severe aortic stenosis who are high-risk candidates for open heart surgery because of their age, history of heart disease or other health issues.

Joe, who underwent coronary artery bypass surgery twenty years ago and had stents placed in blocked arteries awhile back, met with a multi-disciplinary team of physicians at Lexington Medical Center who perform TAVR, including cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons at Lexington Cardiology and Lexington Cardiovascular Surgery. He underwent TAVR at the hospital in October 2014.

Joe spent three days at Lexington Medical Center for the procedure. Immediately after TAVR was complete, he noticed that he could breathe better.

“The next morning when they came in to check my breathing, they said, ‘Man, you’re moving some air today!”

Betty, who says she’s incredibly thankful that Lexington Medical Center now offers a comprehensive cardiovascular program, has noticed a difference in Joe, too. Before TAVR, she said her husband had trouble working on the farm at all. In fact, he had to hand off much of the work with the cattle to his son. Now, Joe is in the pasture from early morning until late afternoon with no chest pain, shortness of breath or fatigue.

“It’s a whole different life for me,” Joe said. “I can get out and do things again. TAVR is one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

LMC to Offer Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement

This year, Lexington Medical Heart Center will begin offering transcatheter aortic valve replacement, known as TAVR. This state-of-the-art cardiovascular technology allows doctors to replace the aortic valve without open heart surgery.

Dr. Robert Leonardi of Lexington Cardiology

Dr. Robert Leonardi of Lexington Cardiology

“TAVR is the single most important advance in interventional cardiology since coronary angioplasty,” said Dr. Robert Leonardi of Lexington Cardiology, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice.

He will perform TAVR procedures as part of a highly skilled cardiac care team that includes Dr. Robert Malanuk of Lexington Cardiology and Dr. Jeffrey Travis of Lexington Cardiovascular Surgery, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice, as well as nurses, technicians and a cardiovascular anesthesiologist.

Currently, TAVR is for patients with severe aortic stenosis who are not candidates for open heart surgery because of their age, history of heart disease, or other health issues.

Patients with severe aortic stenosis have a narrowed aortic valve that does not allow blood to flow efficiently. As the heart works harder to pump enough blood through the smaller opening in the valve, the heart eventually becomes weak. Over time, that can lead to life-threatening heart problems.


TAVR offers a less invasive option than open heart surgery. To replace the diseased aortic valve, the new aortic valve is compressed into a tube-like device called a delivery catheter that’s slightly wider than a pencil. Doctors insert the delivery catheter and the new aortic valve into an artery and thread the catheter through the body to the inside of the diseased aortic valve. Then, doctors deploy the new valve from the delivery catheter inside the diseased aortic valve, which becomes the anchor for the new valve. The new valve is functional immediately and normal blood flow is restored.

Lexington Medical Heart Center will use the Edwards SAPIEN Transcatheter Heart Valve. It’s made of bovine tissue with a stainless steel frame. The TAVR procedure takes less than two hours.

“The main benefit is that patients feel better and live longer,” Dr. Leonardi said.

Studies show that TAVR reduces the mortality rate in patients by 20% in the first year after the procedure.

“Patients often want to know if there’s something we can do to make them feel better,” he added. “TAVR allows that to happen.”

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For more information on Lexington Medical Center’s complete cardiac care program, visit LexMed.com.