GREAT FALLS - Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) surgeries have been around for a while, but they are new to Benefis Health System.
In fact, before this week, they had never performed one.
Edwards Lifesciences visited the hospital to assist with the run-through of the procedure, providing guidance to surgeons and staff.
TAVR surgery allows surgeons to access the heart in a less invasive way than open-heart surgery, and it has been around for about 20 years.
An incision is made in the upper leg or groin. A catheter with a balloon on the end is pushed through an artery in the leg.
X-ray machines help guide it to the heart. The balloon is then inflated to expand the new valve into place and begins working immediately.
Interventional cardiologist Shawn Kelly — who helped perform the surgeries — says they went smoothly and is looking forward to offering it to more patients.
“I was elated to know that this program was actually going to happen. I spent about three months over the summer learning how to do the procedure out of state. It all kind of happened quite quickly. It definitely is going to become more popular over time,” Kelly said.
Not only is the surgery less invasive, but it also takes about a quarter of the time to recover compared to open-heart surgery.
Benefis staff performed two surgeries Tuesday morning and they say they were successful and went as expected.
Cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon Steven Bailey — who was also on hand for the surgeries — said he’s seen many innovations in his time but not like TAVR.
He called it a breakthrough.
“I thought that was probably the most remarkable and the most significant medical innovation that I’d participated in,” Bailey said, who added he started practicing in 1993.
“It went very well. Many patients and their families are being sent to the University of Utah, or to Spokane. Now we’re able to provide those services but close to home.”
Bailey added both patients are already released from the hospital. Benefis expects to complete more TAVR surgeries in the coming weeks.