Velda Swenson, 91, is all smiles and back to her active lifestyle, following a minimally invasive procedure that repaired a heart valve. Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire offers patients the convenience of valve evaluation testing locally prior to a transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, procedure. Hear more about Swenson's story here.
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Velda Swenson, a spry 91-year-old from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, has lived with a heart murmur without incident for decades. She considers herself to be an active, healthy person, and enjoys sewing, being outside and gardening. She’s always been a walker and recently noticed increased shortness of breath when she quickens her pace.
“That kind of hindered me,” Swenson says.
Still, she never expected the news she received from the resulting doctor appointment.
“They said, ‘Hey, you’ve got an opening about the size of a lead pencil. You’ve got to have something done, and you’ve got to have it done now,’” recalls Swenson, who suffers from aortic stenosis, which occurs when the heart’s aortic valve narrows, preventing the valve from properly opening and, over time, obstructs blood flow.
The condition prompted the need for a procedure known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement or TAVR. The minimally invasive procedure replaces narrowed aortic valves like Swenson’s and relieves the signs and symptoms of aortic stenosis. Typically, it is performed on people who can’t undergo open-heart surgery or for whom surgery is too risky.
Mayo Clinic Health System physicians, including Thomas Carmody, M.D., have been training at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for the last year, where he and his peers often collaborate. Dr. Carmody assisted Swenson’s Dec. 16, 2015, surgery.
“The surgery, itself, went fabulous,” says Dr. Carmody, mentioning how much easier TAVR is on patients compared with the trauma of traditional open-heart surgery. The toughest part often is the battery of tests patients undergo beforehand, including EKGs, angiograms and pulmonary function tests. “The actual procedure is very short, and the imprint on the patient is extremely small. Therefore, they can go home early.”
Swenson agrees and was amazed at how quickly the time passed pre- and post-surgery in Rochester. Now, she reports feeling great and has nothing but praise for her doctors and experience.
“I feel marvelous, and the surgery was a walk in the park,” she says. “I went down there, had surgery Wednesday morning and came home Friday afternoon. I never even took a pain pill.”
“Patients benefit by having their pre-surgical valve evaluation done in Eau Claire versus Rochester, where, until recently, they would’ve had to go,” says Richard Hanna, M.D., a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire who saw Swenson in the local valve evaluation clinic.
“There are a lot of patients who have problems associated with aortic stenosis. They have symptoms from it, they’re limited by it, and their surgical risk is quite high. It’s a common scenario,” says Dr. Hanna. “TAVR offers a treatment option that wasn’t there before. For select patients, it’s going to be a helpful addition to what we can offer.”
Swenson, for one, can’t say enough about her experience.
“I would advise anyone who had this problem not to be worried about it, because you’re in good hands,” she says. “I was so impressed with the ease of the whole thing.”
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Mayo Clinic Health System consists of clinics, hospitals and other facilities that serve the health care needs of people in more than 60 communities in Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based providers, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive the highest-quality health care close to home.