A Hearty Milestone for Sacramento: Over 1,000 Lives Saved with TAVRs
A few months ago, 87-year-old Margie Malaspino wouldn’t have been able to play Mrs. Santa for her local Soroptimist event. She was in heart failure due to a constricted aortic heart valve, called aortic stenosis.
“I tired out too easy,” she says. “I had no energy to even walk across the house.” And, way too little energy to play Mrs. Santa for children.
But all that changed by the time Malaspino’s role as Mrs. Santa came earlier this month. She was full of life and all smiles, thanks to a minimally invasive valve replacement known as a TAVR – transcatheter aortic valve replacement – that was performed at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento. The hospital was one of the first TAVR centers in the nation, first implanting one in 2012, and in October 2019 became the first center in the Central Valley to perform 1,000 TAVR procedures. Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento has performed the most TAVRs in the greater region and is in the top five in the state, according to the TAVR’s maker, Edwards Lifesciences.
TAVR is performed without the need for open-heart surgery to replace a narrowed aortic valve. A team of interventional cardiologists and heart surgeons work side-by-side to thread a catheter containing the new valve through a vein and expanding it once it’s in place. It originally was used just in older patients – usually those in their 80s and 90s – and others who may be too weak to have an open-chest surgery. Just this year, it was approved by the FDA for standard-risk patients, too.
The TAVR team at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento has since pioneered several improvements to the TAVR procedure. Among them: In 2015 the team was the first in Sacramento and one of the first nationally to perform TAVR using conscious sedation rather than general anesthesia, providing inherent benefits to these elderly and frail patients, and in 2018 the team was the first in the Central Valley to perform an innovative catheter procedure called BASILICA followed by a TAVR, successfully preventing an often-fatal complication of a valve-in-valve replacement.
“We are so proud to be able to give people their lives back with this procedure,” said Thomas Rhodes, R.N., administrative director of cardiovascular services at Sutter Medical Center. “Margaret’s story is one of many successes that we love to hear. We have an incredible team devoted to improving our patients’ lives.”
Just two weeks after the procedure, Margie was back on the go, thanks to the team at Sutter Medical Center. Not only did she play Mrs. Santa, she is back calling bingo at least once a month and going out with her friends to dance and listen to music.
“She has a better social life than I do,” said her granddaughter, Erica. “She runs circles around her five great-grandsons.”