TMC’s Structural Heart Program means more options for cardiac care

Tucson Medical Center has launched a Structural Heart Program that expands cardiovascular services, making TMC a one-stop institution for all types of cardiac treatments.  It provides a full range of care for things like congenital heart defects, valve problems, or cardiomyopathy, which includes problems with the heart muscle.

Dr. William Thomas Pima Heart Cardiologist,  TMC's Structural Heart and Valve Team Medical Director

Dr. William Thomas
Pima Heart Cardiologist,
TMC’s Structural Heart and Valve Team Medical Director

TMC’s Structural Heart and Valve Team consists of physicians from multiple heart and vascular specialties from around Tucson, and is led by Medical Director Dr. William Thomas.  “We are thrilled to have a full Structural Heart Program.  TMC is providing cutting-edge cardiovascular care to patients in need,” he said.  By working together, these physicians can provide the best possible outcomes for patients with structural heart diseases and conditions.  As part of the program, TMC has become one of 250 sites in the country to offer the transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR.

TAVR is for patients who have been diagnosed with aortic stenosis, a life-threatening disease that can progress quickly and can’t be treated medically.  Aortic stenosis is a narrowing of the aortic-valve opening that restricts normal blood flow to the entire body.  It can cause heart failure and shortness of breath.  Unfortunately it is a common public health problem affecting millions of people in the U.S.  An estimated 7 percent of the population over the age of 65 has it.  It’s more likely to affect men than women, as an estimated 80 percent of adults with symptomatic aortic stenosis are men.

Click photo for video of Bill Martin and his new lease on life following his TAVR procedure at TMC.

Bill Martin has a new lease on life following his TAVR procedure at TMC.

Oro Valley resident Bill Marvin is no stranger to cardiac procedures – in fact, he has nine stents in his heart.  “My heart is probably more artificial than it is real,” he laughed.  Marvin was diagnosed with aortic stenosis in February 2013.  His quality of life – not great.

Patients can undergo surgery to have their valve replaced, but those who are too sick to qualify for the operation had no other options before TAVR was created.  “This does not require open chest surgery,” explained Kristie Walker, ACNP-BC, TAVR nurse coordinator.  “Physicians place catheters in a patient’s groin instead of going through their chest.”

The difference between providing this service, and not providing this service, is the difference between life and death,” said Dr. Thomas. 

Patients must undergo an extensive work-up that can take weeks to complete before the procedure is scheduled.  Marvin’s TAVR procedure was one of the first ones performed by TMC’s TAVR team in October 2013.  At least a dozen more patients have elected to have the surgery since then.  Replacing the valve usually takes three to four hours, and requires a stay of three or four days in the hospital.  “It’s amazing,” said Walker.  “Most of these patients feel immediate relief.  As soon as they hit the ICU, they are feeling better.”

That was the case for Marvin, who said he feels himself growing better almost daily.  He works four days a week at the guard gate of his community, and is looking forward to resuming his exercise routine.  Many TAVR patients also complete outpatient cardiac rehab.

The Structural Heart Program is the latest showing of TMC’s long-standing commitment to providing patients a higher level of cardiovascular care.  TMC is proud to be the first hospital in Arizona to be awarded Atrial Fibrillation certification, and the first hospital in Tucson to receive Congestive Heart Failure accreditation.  TMC has also been re-accredited in Chest Pain, after earning its original endorsement in 2010.  All three designations come from the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care.

“We’re so excited to be able to offer TAVR at TMC because by replacing the valve in these patients, it will help eliminate the shortness of breath, improve their quality of life and help extend their lives,” said Walker.  Dr. Thomas described the outcome of TAVR as a great step forward in the treatment of aortic stenosis.  “Not only are these patients alive, but their ability to function in everyday life improves within weeks, sometimes even days to hours after the procedure.  It really is remarkable.”

Marvin says his wife asked him for another 1o years.  “I think I’ll give her another 15,” he laughed.

For more information about Aortic Stenosis, please click here.
For more information about TAVR, please click here.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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