BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Health issues have a way of unsuspectingly creeping into a person’s body, slowly robbing them of the moments that make life special.
For some, the cost is losing out on the chance to share a dance with their child at a wedding. Others are left with crippling anxiety, wondering if they’ll be able to continue doing the things that add meaning to their life.
For Irving Schexnayder, it was a question of whether or not he’d be able to continue checking his mail.
“Our front yard is about 60 or 70 yards. By the time I’d get to the mailbox and back, I was worn out,” said Schexnayder.
When performing any activity that required any amount of physical exertion, Schexnayder was immediately overcome with a sudden shortness of breath. The limits his body forced upon him left him lethargic. He says he was left “feeling blue all the time with not a whole lot of life.”
Inside Schexnayder’s chest, calcium deposits had slowly built up on a value in his heart.
It’s a condition called aortic valve stenosis. In the same way that a drain can get clogged with debris, those calcium deposits keep one of the four valves in the heart from fully opening, preventing the heart from pushing blood through the body.
In the past, the solution to the condition was to replace the valve through open heart surgery, until a few years ago when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR, as an alternative treatment option.
In TAVR, the new valve is mounted on a small balloon on a catheter. A small incision is made in the groin or the chest, and the balloon is threaded through an artery into the heart. When in place, the balloon inflates and the valve expands. A cuff around the valve is pressed into the artery walls, lodging it in place.
“Almost 90% of the time, we are able to [perform the procedure] through the groin, so there is absolutely no scarring other than a very small area for less than about six millimeters," said Venkat R. Surakanti, an interventional cardiologist with Baton Rouge Cardiology Center and Our Lady of the Lake. "You don’t even see that because it’s in the skin pores in the groin, whereas previously, [the procedure would leave] a mid-line scar on the chest.”
Schexnayder recently became among the 400 plus patients served by Our Lady of the Lake’s “TAVR team.”
At 84 years of age, the thought of a heart procedure weighed on him heavily. However, Schexnayder says after hearing more about TAVR, he was sold.
TAVR is a less invasive option initially approved by the FDA as an alternative treatment option for patients who suffer from aortic valve stenosis only if they were considered high risk and were not able to go through an open heart surgery.
Over the years, as the technology became refined, the surgery has become a viable option for patients who are younger and in better health. The procedure is also an option for other patients who may be unable to commit to the needed recovery time.
“[The patients spent] less than two days in the hospital, whereas [recovery period] used to be anywhere between five to seven days for an uncomplicated open heart surgery. [Patients] are back doing whatever they want to do from day one or day two, whereas [the recovery period] used to be about eight weeks of [patients] not being able to pick up certain things,” said Surakanti “We did four patients [Wednesday, Aug. 28]. One of them we sent home [Thursday, Aug. 29]. The other three went home [Friday, Aug. 30].”
Surakanti says the life-changing surgery can help patients get back to their normal self where they can walk, go dancing, hunting, walking in the park or forest, or camping.
The TAVR procedure is covered by most insurance companies. For more information, and to see if you may be a candidate, call 225-765-8303, or, find a heart valve specialist anytime online.