The Times West Virginian

Breaking News

Local News

February 23, 2014

Alternative to open-heart surgery to replace aortic valve available at Mon General

MORGANTOWN — Mon General Hospital has a new option for patients who need aortic valve replacement but aren’t healthy enough for open-heart surgery.

While traditionally open-heart surgery was the only option, Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) allows doctors to go in and replace the aortic valve without opening the chest or stopping the heart.

Instead, they go in using a tiny device that is inserted through a groin vessel or a small two-inch incision. The new artificial valve is then inserted within the diseased valve.

The procedure gives patients who have been diagnosed with severe symptomatic aortic valve disease, but aren’t well enough for traditional open heart surgery, the option of surgery to replace their aortic valve­ — an option they did not have before TAVR was approved by the FDA in 2011.

Mon General is the first hospital in North Central West Virginia to offer this procedure.

Dr. Alexander Nagy, the medical director of cardiothoracic surgery at Mon General, explained that the health of the aortic valve is very important to the body.

“It is one of the four valves of the heart that basically is a gate keeper between the main chamber of the heart and the main highway for the blood, which is the aorta,” Nagy said. “That’s the source of oxygen and nutrients for the entire body.”

So when the aortic valve doesn’t work properly, it can cause serious problems.

Aortic stenosis is when the aortic valve can’t open wide enough, which makes the heart work harder to push the blood into the aorta. The heart can compensate for a few years, but eventually, it gets tired of being overworked.

“After several years symptoms occur, including chest pain, shortness of breath and loss of consciousness,” Nagy said. “Unfortunately, when the patients become symptomatic the life expectancy is limited, and approximately half of them die within the next two years.”

Open-heart surgery has a very good success rate of 99 percent for patients at medical centers like Mon General.

But not all patients are healthy enough to undergo open-heart surgery.

“There is a significant number of patients with severe aortic stenosis who are either inoperable or at a very high risk for surgery because of their age or other medical problems,” Nagy said. “And for that percentage of patients, which is up toward 30 percent, there is no option basically.”

With TAVR, these patients are now, for the first time, able to get their aortic valve replaced.

“Now you can treat those patients, the 30 percent who are elderly or very sick, with a technology that, to me at least, is the ultimate minimally invasive approach,” Nagy said.

The two companies that pioneered the transcatheter valve are both American companies. However, while the procedure was approved in Europe in 2007, it wasn’t approved in the United States until 2011 for inoperable patients, and in 2012 for high-risk patients.

50,000 cases were performed in Europe between 2007 and 2012, with excellent results, Nagy said.

Nagy said that prior to FDA approval, two rigorous studies were done that verified the value of the procedure. The first showed that TAVR was a better option for patients than medication alone. The second showed that TAVR performed as well as open-heart surgery.

So far, Mon General has had three TAVR patients, with two procedures in November and one in December. Five more are on the waiting list.

And while it is currently only approved for high-risk patients, Nagy said he sees approval down the road, once they can see the long-term results.

The TAVR procedure requires a much bigger staff than traditional open-heart surgery. While in open-heart surgery there are only two doctors, in TAVR, there are six. Including technicians and nurses, Nagy estimates there are at least 20 people involved in the operating room during a TAVR procedure. With so many people, it’s important for everyone to work together.

“So you have to create an orchestra, a team,” Nagy said. “It becomes like a symphony.”

All of the work is worth it, though, Nagy said.

“This type of surgery is done for patients who have severe aortic stenosis, not moderate,” Nagy said. “So first of all, you want to save their life, because they don’t have another option.”

Nagy said that, provided they have no other severe health conditions, such as kidney disease, patients who have undergone TAVR should be able to lead normal lives.

“Their lifestyle should be very similar with somebody who has no aortic valve problems of the same age,” he said.

Pearl Walls, 85, of Granville, said that the surgery has made a difference in her life.

“I think it did me a world of good to have it done,” Walls said. “I think they did a really good job because I haven’t had any problems at all from it.”

Walls said she was in the hospital for around a week following the procedure.

She said she’s been pleased to live as long as she has so far, and is looking forward to her 86th birthday in October.

“I used to think I wouldn’t live to be 50. Well, I made it to 50 and then some,” Walls said.

Email Colleen S. Good at or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.

Text Only
Local News
  • UPDATE: Police say 11-year-old shot in 'accidental discharge of a firearm'

    A boy remains in critical condition after being shot more than a week ago, and police officials are now saying the incident was accidental in nature.

    April 17, 2014

  • Attorney General - CB.jpg Morrisey wants to work with all to ‘help transform West Virginia’

    State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey wants to work with citizens to “help transform West Virginia.”
    Morrisey was the guest speaker for the Marion County Chamber of Commerce’s “Lunch and Learn” event Wednesday at the Mon Power headquarters, located in the I-79 Technology Park in Fairmont. His trip to the Friendly City followed a town hall meeting in Harrison County Tuesday night.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Behind-the-scenes emergency workers honored

    The Marion County Commission is recognizing the individuals who work behind the scenes when an emergency happens.
    During Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners signed a proclamation for National Public Safety Tele-Communicator’s Week in Marion County. The proclamation recognizes individuals working at the Marion County 911 Center.

    April 17, 2014

  • Wallace residents plead guilty to fishing violations

    Two Wallace residents were cited for and pleaded guilty to trout fishing violations.
    Michael Earl Fetty, 70, and Tammy K. Fetty, 46, were issued citations for exceeding possession limit of trout and conspiracy to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia State Code.

    April 17, 2014

  • Military Kids 1 - CB.jpg Military children honored for their sacrifices: PHOTOS

    Military children were honored for their sacrifices Tuesday at the Hershel “Woody” Williams Fairmont Armed Forces Reserve Center.
    The event was planned to coincide with Purple Up! Day, a nationwide initiative that encourages everyone to wear purple in honor of military children across the country.

    April 16, 2014 4 Photos

  • Child health: ‘Room for improvement’

    Children living in Marion County are doing better in some respects than children in other counties in the state, according to a national study released Tuesday.
    “The 2013 West Virginia Kids Count Data Book,” published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, compares states and their counties to each other and to the national average of various areas of child health.

    April 16, 2014

  • Another civil suit filed by Marple

    Though a civil case in already pending in U.S federal court, former state Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple has filed another civil suit over her 2012 termination.
    The main difference between the two cases, apparently, is that in addition to naming the West Virginia Board of Education as a plaintiff, former president of the board and current member Wade Linger is individually named in the suit as a defendant.

    April 16, 2014

  • County man indicted for murder of infant

    A Marion County man has been indicted on charges for the death of an infant.
    Marcus Curtis Lewis, 55, was indicted for charges of first-degree murder and death of a child by a parent, guardian of custodian by Taylor County grand jurors Monday. Judge Alan D. Moats is expected to arraign Lewis on Friday.

    April 16, 2014

  • Three arrested on charges stemming from armed robbery

    Three men were arrested in the Fairmont area on charges stemming from an armed robbery.
    Corey Joseph Richardson, 35, of Montgomery Village, Md.; Stephen Joseph Brewington, 26, of Allston, Mass.; and Wallace Anthony Booth Jr., 21, of Fairmont, were arrested on Tuesday and charged with robbery, burglary and conspiracy to commit a felony.

    April 16, 2014

  • marcus lewis.jpg Marion County man indicted in murder of infant

    A Marion County man was indicted by the Taylor County grand jury Monday on charges for the death of an infant.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
TWV Video Highlights
NDN Editor's Picks
House Ads