MedWatch: Valve-in-Valve

Technology is helping people live longer, but oftentimes that can pose other problems as people age.

Replacements for joints or valves wear out and need to be replaced a second, or even third time.

But now a new approach is helping those heart patients who need a new valve.

As we see in this month’s MedWatch report, it’s giving patients their lives back.

“It was just totally from just almost feeling like I was going to die to feeling like a new person,” said Judy King.

Judy is 76 years young and is enjoying every bit of her life.

“I can do my own laundry, which is exciting for me,” joked Judy.

Even the little things are big things for her after her heart valve replacement failed.

“I had trouble breathing, but I had gained a lot of weight and so I though the lack of breath was from gaining a lot of weight and my legs ached really, really bad,” explained Judy.

She had a heart attack in October of 2016 and her health got even worse.

“I just got progressively weaker and weaker and weaker. I couldn’t even take my dog outside to the bathroom,” said Judy. “I was put in the hospital the 23rd of December. I was in there 18 days while they did all kinds of tests to see what the problem was.”

It turns out the mitral valve replacement she had ten years earlier had failed.

“What we tell patients, 50 percent of the time those valves start to fail in the 10-15 years post-operatively. That’s the lifespan of these valves,” explained Dr. Nick Slocum, M.D., medical director at the cardiac cath lab.

When doctors replaced the valve the first time, Judy had open heart surgery.

“The first go around was rough because they did the incision right here on my chest and they had to cut the bones. The operation wasn’t rough, it was the recovery it was very painful,” said Judy.

But this time around, doctors had a new option. It’s called valve-in-valve.

It’s less invasive, and recovery is a lot easier.

Doctors go in through the groin or chest, and use a catheter to replace the failing valve.

“The old valve is just crushed to the side. It’s rendered nonfunctional and the new catheter valve is now their functioning valve in the heart,” explained Dr. Slocum.

It’s the best, and safest option for older patients.

“We did not have a good option for the individual in their 80s or who had other high risk features that made open heart surgery dangerous for them. That’s really what this is designed for,” said Dr. Slocum.

The technology has only been available for the last two years, and Munson Medical Center doctors have embraced the procedure with a full team Approach from clinic to recovery.

“There is an invasive cardiologist, a cardiac surgeon, a noninvasive echocardiologist and an anesthesiologist: four different doctors are there. We get to know them, we know that their life is like, what their symptoms are and that helps us formulate a plan,” explained Dr. Shelly Lall, M.D., cardiothoracic surgery.

That plan and procedure has Judy back on her feet and happier than ever.

“I felt like a new person the day after surgery,” said Judy. “It’s very important because my mind tells me there’s still some life left in me and, you know, another 10 years or more. It’s great!”

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