• Print    Email
  • Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+)
  • Bookmark and Share

Rex Healthcare and UNC Health Care to Offer Innovative Aortic Valve Replacement

New UNC/Rex Heart Valve Center to Pool Expertise of Cardiac Specialists

February 22, 2012

Contact: Alan M. Wolf
(919) 784-4467

RALEIGH, N.C. - A team of heart and vascular specialists is preparing for Rex Healthcare to become the first Wake County hospital to offer a revolutionary type of heart valve replacement.

The transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, is a promising option for treating patients with severe symptomatic aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the heart valve that supplies blood to the entire body. The procedure involves physicians guiding an artificial heart valve attached to a catheter through a patient's artery in the thigh. The technology was developed by Edwards Lifesciences.

The device and minimally invasive procedure won approval from the Food and Drug Administration last fall for older patients who aren't healthy enough to have traditional valve replacement, which requires open-heart surgery.

"It's a therapy that will prolong their lives and give them a better quality of life," said Dr. Lance Landvater, co-medical director of Rex Cardiothoracic Surgery Specialists. "This gives new hope for patients who are considered 'inoperable.'"

Dr. Landvater is leading a multidisciplinary team of cardiothoracic surgeons, interventional cardiologists, non-invasive cardiologists and other specialists hand-picked to implant the device and establish a new UNC/Rex Heart Valve Center. In addition to Dr. Landvater, the center's team includes Dr. Christian Gring, Dr. Matthew Hook and Dr. R. Lee Jobe of Wake Heart & Vascular; Dr. Timothy Gruebel of American Anesthesiology of North Carolina; Dr. Andy Kiser, chief of UNC's Cardiothoracic Surgery division; and Dr. James Zidar, president of Rex Heart & Vascular Specialists.

"Pooling together that much expertise benefits patients by increasing the likelihood the procedure will be successful," Hook said. "The clinical research on TAVR shows such a marked benefit in saving lives. It really moves the field forward."

The new heart valve center at Rex is currently screening patients and expects to perform the first TAVR procedure in May. The device and procedure has been studied extensively in the United States and has been used successfully in Europe since 2002.

About 250,000 Americans suffer from severe aortic stenosis, often developing debilitating symptoms that can affect normal day-to-day activities such as walking short distances or climbing stairs. Generally, the condition affects people over 70.  Aortic stenosis occurs when the aortic valve does not properly open and close, usually due to a build-up of calcium. The calcium build-up restricts blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body, weakens heart muscles and increases the risk of heart failure. Symptoms of the disease can include extreme fatigue, dizziness, chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath during activity, rapid or irregular heart beat and fainting.

For more information on the heart valve clinic or TAVR, call (919) 784-1321 or visit uncrexheartvalvecenter.com.