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Forrest General First to Offer Advanced Heart Valve Replacement Procedure for High-Risk Patients - Forrest Health
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    Published on March 13, 2015

    Forrest General First to Offer Advanced Heart Valve Replacement Procedure for High-Risk Patients


    HATTIESBURG, Miss. – (March 13, 2015) World War II Veteran, Ray Stephens, loves to work in his garden. However, a few months ago, the 93 year old Sumrall resident noticed something wasn’t right.

    "I started getting short of breath, and I could no longer do any work," said Stephens. 

    After a visit to his doctor, Stephens said he learned he had a bad heart valve, but any type of surgical procedure would be risky for a patient his age and with his additional health conditions.

    Stephens said transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) was his only option, and he would become the first patient at Forrest General to undergo the procedure.

    Forrest General now offers TAVR with the Edwards SAPIEN transcatheter heart valve for patients at high-risk for surgical aortic valve replacement (AVR). It is the only TAVR therapy approved for commercial use in the country, and Forrest General is one of a select number of sites currently offering this treatment and the first hospital in Hattiesburg to perform the procedure.

    Instead of making an incision in Stephen's chest to replace his faulty valve, doctors used a minimally invasive approach. A catheter was inserted into the femoral artery in Stephen's groin. The new valve was guided up to the heart and delivered with a balloon catheter procedure.

    "This less invasive procedure is for higher risk, older patients with aortic valve stenosis, a form of heart disease in which the valve that regulates blood flow from the heart doesn't fully open. These patients are typically not good candidates for other types of surgical procedures," said Robert Wilkins, MD, interventional cardiologist at Forrest General.

    The Edwards SAPIEN valve via transfemoral delivery was initially approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in November 2011. 

    The TAVR procedure lasts about an hour and a half. Patients are placed under general anesthesia and no external splitting or bypass surgery is necessary. If patients do well after the procedure, they can return home in two to four days. 

    The procedure was performed by a team of cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons including Dr. Wilkins, Josh Blair, MD; Randel Smith, MD; Robert Robbins, MD and L. Carr McClain, MD.

    Dr. Wilkins said Forrest General is proud to offer the advance treatment to patients like Stephens. The team has also performed the hospital's second TAVR procedure on 77 year old patient and animal lover, Kenneth Lovering.

    "I couldn't walk to my mailbox or out to the barn without being out of breath. My aortic valve was not functioning well. I was getting atrial fibrillation (A-fib) and dizziness," said Lovering.

    Lovering said 25 years ago he had five bypass surgeries, so when he recently became ill, open heart surgery was not an option. As with most therapies, there are risks involved. However, Lovering felt the procedure was necessary for him to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.

    Since the procedure, neither Stephens nor Lovering have had any problems. They both consider themselves fortunate. The two men are now anticipating getting back to doing the things they love and enjoying a new and improved quality of life thanks to the world class care offered by Forrest General.

    In 2015, Forrest General is proud to be ranked among the top 3% of hospitals nationwide for patient safety in Coronary Bypass Surgery and in the top 10% in the nation for patient safety in Heart Attack Treatment by CareChex®, a division of Comparion®, an independent company recognizing the nation’s best performers on various measures of quality relating to process of care, outcomes, and patients. 




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