Minimally invasive heart surgery keeps Spokane woman on her feet

August 17, 2018 Providence Health Team

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Heart to Heart Patient Education Guide

(Compiled and reviewed by the Regional Cardiac Education Committee, clinical staff and physicians in Providence Health & Services’ Portland Service Area)

At age 86, Barbara Inman of Spokane remains active, walking a mile a day, vacuuming her apartment, visiting with her children and grandchildren and recovering from her surgery this spring at Providence Spokane Heart Institute.  It’s hard to imagine just a few months ago she was, in her words, “slowly dying.”

She is diminutive, at 5 feet tall and about 111 pounds, but she has a strong will and drive. She has kept herself in athletic shape since childhood, participating in team sports and, always, walking.

She persisted even though walking was getting harder. She would set out each day, but often felt short of breath.

“I just wasn’t feeling good,” she said.

For a fit woman, Barbara has dealt with a lot of medical adversity. She had a heart murmur, and while she often felt poorly while getting exercise, she said, “I was used to it. I was a kid. I just accepted it.”

She also has been treated for — and recovered from — bouts of cancer that affected her lung and, later, her brain. She had surgeries to remove masses and was dosed with radiation. She is now free of cancer.

As her heart health was deteriorating, she consulted a doctor who told her she wasn’t a good candidate for a traditional heart procedure because she had received radiation treatments. Not one to give up, Barbara sought a second opinion from Brydan Curtis, D.O., an interventional cardiologist at Providence Spokane Cardiology, a member group of the Providence Spokane Heart Institute.

Dr. Curtis advised her the radiation treatments should have little to no bearing on whether she was eligible for TAVR.

Find out if you’re at risk for common health issues like heart disease. Take our free health risk assessment.

TAVR surgery

Providence Spokane Heart Institute is a leader in transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) surgery, which is a minimally invasive procedure to replace the heart’s aortic valve. It is usually well suited for people who may face elevated risks in a traditional, open-heart surgery. Barbara, it turned out, was a good candidate for the procedure. During intense evaluation and work-up prior to having the procedure, testing revealed the need for stents to repair a blockage; once that problem was taken care of, Barbara’s heart valve was replaced a week later.

“Barbara is the perfect patient,” says Dr. Curtis. “She is an active 86 year old and wanted to live life to the fullest.” TAVR provides greatly reduced recovery times, eliminates the major chest recovery and encourages people to get active more quickly. “We want people like Barbara to enjoy life, and in Barbara’s case, her kids, grandkids and great grandchildren.”

As it happens, Barbara was a milestone patient, becoming the 750th person to undergo a TAVR procedure at the Heart Institute.

TAVR, performed under general anesthesia, requires only the smallest incision, through the groin or chest. At Providence, a cardiologist and a cardiac surgeon work together to insert a valve into the large artery, then guiding it up to the heart.  Two heart surgeons must agree that conventional surgery is too risky before a TAVR procedure is performed. “We consider all surgical options including TAVR when determining the best solution for our patients,” adds Dr. Curtis. “A cardiologist and cardiac surgeon partners with specialists in radiology, anesthesiology and other teams to ensure best outcomes.”

Barbara said this summer she expects to recover her full strength within the next several months. She’s walking again — so frequently, she said, that “they told me I should slow down.”

Learn more about TAVR and see how it works:

Read stories about other TAVR patients at Providence's Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Torrance, CA, and in Oregon.

Also, KPTV in Portland highlighted a patient receiving TAVR surgery at Providence's St. Vincent Medical Center.

Learn more about the Heart Institute. If you’d like to talk to a Providence provider about feeling fatigued, the condition of your heart or anything else, you can find one near you in our online directory

Washington: Providence Spokane Heart InstituteProvidence Heart & Vascular; Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute; Kadlec Regional Medical Center

OR: Providence Heart & Vascular Institute

Alaska: Providence Heart & Vascular Center

California: Providence Saint John’s Health Center;  Little Company of Mary Medical Center TorranceProvidence Saint Joseph Medical Center

Montana: International Heart Institute

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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