SARASOTA — During his 20 years as a Navy flyer, Danny Hierholzer received his fair share of nicknames.
The last place he expected to get a new one was during a heart procedure at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
But that’s exactly what happened when he discovered he was “Mr. 1,000th” today.
Today, Hierholzer was the 1,000th patient to have a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
“I guess I had 'The Right Stuff’,” he joked. “I’ve faced a lot of nerve-racking things over the years, but the thought of having my ribs cracked open was terrifying.
“I thank God for this TAVR option … there was nothing to it.”
Before his procedure, Hierholzer, 72, was suffering from fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness and other symptoms associated with severe aortic valve stenosis, a condition that occurs when the aortic valve narrows and obstructs blood flow from your heart to the rest of your body. In severe cases, it can lead to heart failure and sudden cardiac death.
Rather than undergoing open-heart surgery, Hierholzer received a new, artificial valve through the much less invasive TAVR procedure, a catheter-based treatment alternative to replace leaking or narrowed heart valves. The new valve is placed via a catheter inserted into the arteries, from the groin area to the heart. With the minimally invasive procedure, patients do not have to endure a long incision through the breastbone or be put on a heart-lung bypass machine.
Previously, TAVR was approved only for patients deemed too sick or high-risk for open-heart surgery. In the past year, the FDA approved the procedure for low-risk patients, increasing the number of heart patients who qualify for the life-saving treatment.
Before patients are cleared to undergo the procedure, they are evaluated by a multi-disciplinary heart team in Sarasota Memorial’s Valve Clinic. That team includes interventional cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, nurse practitioners, echocardiographers, imaging specialists and heart failure specialists. During the procedure, cardiac anesthesiologists, specially trained cardiac cath lab nurses and technologists join the team.
More than 90 percent of SMH’s patients undergo TAVR under conscious sedation and do not require an ICU stay. A few hours after his procedure, Hierholzer was joking and looking forward to going home the next day.
“Maybe the golden years won’t be so bad after all,” Hierholzer said.
Interventional cardiologists who perform the procedure at Sarasota Memorial include Michael Mumma, MD; David Schreibman, MD; Ricardo Yaryura, MD; and Fred Yturralde, MD, with backup assistance provided by Sarasota Memorial’s cardiac surgeons.
For more information, visit smh.com/heart or call Sarasota Memorial’s Valve Clinic at (941) 917-6968.