Newark Beth Israel Performs Heart Valve Replacement Without Surgery

NEWARK — Elderly people who are suffering from the symptoms of aortic valve disease can now benefit from a treatment that replaces their heart valve without surgery.

A team of cardiac specialists at the Barnabas Health Heart Centers at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Saint Barnabas Medical Center has successfully performed several transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedures to implant the SAPIEN valve that restores the adequate circulation of blood through the heart.

When you consider that in a 70-year lifetime, the average human heart valve opens and closes more than 2.5 billion times, it is not surprising that those valves may stiffen or weaken over the years. Aortic stenosis reduces the valve’s ability to open and close completely and can cause severe shortness of breath, chest pain and weakness. TAVR is a remarkable new technique that allows cardiac specialists to treat aortic stenosis in ways that were impossible before the SAPIEN valve was approved by the FDA in November 2011.

The Barnabas Health Heart Center at Newark Beth Israel was the first in New Jersey certified to perform the new procedure. The SAPIEN valve is the only catheter-based treatment option for people with severe aortic valve disease who are not eligible for surgery. TAVR has been shown to dramatically improve a patient’s quality of life.

“TAVR opens a new door for people who have severe valve disease but who cannot undergo heart surgery because of other medical conditions or advanced age,” explained Craig Saunders, MD, Chairman of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Barnabas Health. “Aortic stenosis is a serious ailment and, left untreated, is life-threatening.” It is estimated that 40 percent of people with severe aortic stenosis do not undergo valve surgery and may benefit from this new treatment option.

Team Approach
“TAVR requires a deeply experienced, multidisciplinary team of cardiac interventionalists and cardiac surgeons as well as a state-of-the-art hybrid operating room in which to perform it,” said Marc Cohen, MD, Chief of Cardiology at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. Dr. Cohen performs TAVR procedures alongside other leaders of the TAVR team that include Bruce Haik, MD, Medical Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories at Barnabas Health; Paul Burns, MD, Director of Cardiac Surgery at Saint Barnabas Medical Center; and Craig Saunders MD, Chairman of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Barnabas Health.

“Combining catheter-based and open surgical procedures is the next step in the evolution of cardiac and vascular care,” said Dr. Cohen, who is internationally respected for his expertise in the field of interventional cardiology. “The more sophisticated procedures such as TAVR require cardiologists and surgeons to work side by side.”

Hybrid Operating Room
The Hybrid Operating Room combines all the advantages of high resolution images of the heart with a modern, sterile operating suite. The $5 million, 1,450-square-foot futuristic space fosters collaboration among cardiac specialists in a room designed to handle both catheter-based and open-heart surgical procedures.

“Instead of a long incision that divides the chest, the SAPIEN valve is compressed on the tip of a catheter that is threaded from the groin into the heart,” explained Dr. Haik. “The technology provides extraordinary images of the heart that are necessary for the precise placement and deployment of the synthetic valve.” When the device is expanded, it pushes the leaflets of the diseased valve aside. The new valve begins to work immediately and patients can experience a considerable improvement in their overall health and ability to perform their daily activities.

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