More than a year ago, Jeanne McArdle’s cardiologist told her a day would come when her aortic heart valve would need to be replaced. The spunky, energetic Lansford woman told him, “You’re crazy. I’m 85 years old. I can’t go through that procedure.”
McArdle was mistaken. She was a perfect candidate for transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). “With TAVR, the diseased valve is replaced using a long, flexible tube (catheter) inserted through a small incision in the groin or chest,” says Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) cardiothoracic surgeon Timothy Misselbeck, MD, with LVPG Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery.
“TAVR is perfect for people who aren’t candidates for open-heart surgery, but are generally in good health and wish to stay active,” says LVHN cardiologist William Combs, MD, with LVPG Cardiology.
How TAVR works
TAVR is performed by a team of expert cardiologists and heart surgeons. They work together in a hybrid operating room (OR), which contains the equipment found in both a traditional OR and cardiac catheterization lab. After TAVR, most people feel better almost immediately and are well enough to leave the hospital in three days.
TAVR is done for patients with aortic stenosis, the narrowing of the opening in the aortic heart valve. This results in decreased blood flow through the valve into the aorta, the large blood vessel that carries blood throughout the body. As it becomes harder to push blood through the valve, the muscles of the heart stretch and thicken, leading to an increased likelihood for heart failure.
People with aortic stenosis may experience:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
In her own words
After she started experiencing symptoms, McArdle – a mother of five, grandmother of six and great-grandmother of three – received the TAVR procedure at LVH–Cedar Crest in January 2016. Here, she shares her story, her wit and her wisdom.
Her TAVR Experience
- “When I came out of the operating room, I was ready to get off that table and walk home. That’s how good I felt, and I’ve felt good ever since.”
- “They told me I would feel like a new woman. I feel like a bionic woman. I have all new parts.”
Life after TAVR
- “My friends cannot keep up with me. I’m not bragging, but they just can’t. And some of them are younger than I am.”
- “I’m a reader, so I have to go to the library. Then tonight, I’m going to play cards – pinochle. Tomorrow I have to visit a friend in the nursing home. Wednesday, I get my hair done and go bowling. Thursday, I play cards and go out to dinner. And then I’m free on the weekend.”
- “I’m looking forward to flying to Virginia to see my great-granddaughter, who is named after me – Elizabeth Jeanne. And next summer, I may go to Europe.”