Senior Heart Help: New Option for the Inoperable

July 2, 2012

Duyane Hoffman puts his heart and soul into exotic flowers.

"It's a good hobby. Not a good business, but a good hobby," Duyane Hoffman, told Ivanhoe.

But the 92-year-old had to put his passion on pause because of his heart problems.

"I couldn't finish sentences. I had to start over again," Duyane said.

Duyane had a triple bypass decades ago, but this time it wasn't an option for his blocked valve.

"At my age, they didn't want to cut me open, " Duyane said.

Until recently, Duyane and older heart patients like him who were deemed inoperable probably would not last a year with the blockage.

"There was essentially no option other than continued medical therapy," Kevin Accola, M.D., a cardiovascular surgeon and valve center of excellence program director at Florida Hospital, explained.

"We're talking about a prognosis that without something being done is horrible," Andrew Taussig, M.D., a cardiovascular institute program director at Florida Hospital, said.

But now that prognosis is improving. Doctors Taussig and Doctor Accola are part of a multi-disciplinary team at Florida Hospital offering elderly patients TAVR or Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement.

Instead of opening the chest, the team inserts a catheter in the leg near the groin. They guide it to the heart. Then a new valve supported by a steel frame expands inside the faulty valve.

"I think it's excellent technology, "Dr. Accola said. "We see results immediately."

While there is an increased chance of stroke with TAVR, Doctor Taussig says for the inoperable the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. Five weeks after surgery and Duyane and his wife are getting back to their passion.

"That's what keeps us busy around here," Duyane said.

With a new valve in his old heart he hopes to see his orchids blossom for many years to come.

The TAVR procedure takes about two to four hours. The doctors tell us the process is still being refined and will eventually go quicker. A patient's hospital stay can range from a few days to a week. Along with the steel frame, the device is made with parts of a cow's heart.

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