TMH to begin offering new heart surgery


Tallahassee Memorial Hospital is in the beginning stages of offering a new heart surgery for inoperable and high-risk patients of aortic stenosis.

Aortic stenosis occurs when the aortic valve becomes too narrow to allow proper blood flow to the heart. This new procedure corrects the narrowing by putting in a new valve and expanding the old one without open heart surgery.

In trans-catheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), doctors place a new aortic valve in a patient’s heart, never opening his or her chest.

They make a small incision in the groin and direct a long, flexible tube through an artery to the heart. At the end of the tube, there is a small balloon that is used to expand the narrowed valve and place a new artificial one.

Doctors are able to drastically improve the lives of patients who normally would not even be OK’d for surgery. It is a monumental addition for Tallahassee Memorial Hospital but even more for Tallahassee and the surrounding areas.

About a month ago, Joe Mills, 92, had the procedure done.

He used to have a hard time just walking down the hallway, but now, he can move around more freely. He is able to do things that he was unable to do before the surgery.

“I’m up and about and doing things,” Mills said. “I went out and blew the leaves off the back patio, yesterday.”

Penny Burroughs, the valve clinic coordinator, said having this available at TMH is going to help a lot of people. Before, patients needed to go to Shands at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, or Emory University Hospital, in Atlanta, to get the same type of care and expertise before it was offered here.

“Now that we are able to do this at TMH, you get to stay home,” Burroughs said. “Your family’s here with you, and you’re here with physicians you already know.”

Mills said it is unlikely he would have been able to have the procedure done if it was not being offered in Tallahassee.

Dr. Wayne Batchelor performed Mills’ operation. He said multiple surgeons turned down Mills for standard open chest aortic valve replacement surgery, which is why he was such a good candidate for TAVR. Batchelor said Mills has come a long way since the operation.

“He was really compromised tremendously by his valve narrowing,” Batchelor said. “So, in his case, he had a dramatic improvement in symptoms. He was able to get back to the things that brought him pleasure.”

Batchelor said the procedure is still getting its legs in the U.S., but he expects that TAVR will be used more frequently in the next five years.