Physicians at St. Joseph’s Hospital are First in Hillsborough County to Perform Less Invasive Aortic Replacement Procedure

October 06, 2015

Tampa, Fla., (October 5, 2015) - For decades, World War II veteran Norman Meissner blazed a trail in the world of mechanical engineering. He developed weapons used in Operation Desert Storm and was instrumental in creating technology used in cardiac catherization procedures. Now, at age 92, he is a pioneer once again. Meissner is the first person to undergo a new, less invasive cardiac valve procedure at St. Joseph’s Hospital’s Heart Institute.

     Meissner suffered a heart attack in August while on his way to a group activity at his nursing home in Land O’Lakes. Doctors determined he had blocked arteries and a faulty aortic heart valve. After having two stents put in to restore blood flow in his arteries, doctors recommended aortic valve replacement, but decided Meissner was not a good candidate for traditional aortic valve replacement or transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) because his body couldn’t handle the surgery. Fortunately for Meissner, physicians at St. Joseph’s Hospital Heart Institute were in the process of learning a less invasive way of performing the procedure.

     On Oct. 1, Dr. Alok Singh, Dr. Reynaldo Mulingtapang, Dr. Andrew Sherman and Dr. Michael Bradner successfully completed the first cardiac valve replacement surgery using the SAPIEN 3 transcatheter aortic heart valve (TAVR). The SAPIEN 3 valve is an improvement upon the previous generation transcatheter valve. It’s smaller than the traditional valve replacement and the operation is less invasive.  It was designed for patients like Meissner who are high-risk and suffering from severe symptomatic aortic stenosis, a disease caused by abnormal narrowing of the aortic valve of the heart, which obstructs blood flow to the body, but who would not be able to tolerate traditional surgery. 

     According to the American Heart Association, approximately 1.5 million Americans suffer from aortic stenosis, which can be life-threatening without treatment. For years, traditional aortic valve replacement required open heart surgery and a surgeon would remove the diseased aortic valve and replace it with a new device. TAVR is a less invasive procedure in which a new valve is inserted into the patient’s diseased valve via a catheter through the leg or chest. The SAPIEN 3 valve is also inserted into the patient’s diseased valve, but because it is smaller, surgeons can implant the device using a catheter through a patient’s groin. This valve also has an outer skirt made of a cuff of fabric surrounding the valve frame, to provide a seal against paravalvular leak caused by a space between the patient’s natural heart tissue and the valve replacement.  

     Dr. Singh says if this new procedure wasn’t available, Meissner would not have been able to have valve replacement surgery. He says anyone who is a candidate for traditional TAVR surgery is a good candidate for the SAPIEN 3 TAVR procedure and traditional TAVR will likely be phased out in the near future.

     As for Meissner, he says undergoing this new TAVR procedure is his 92nd birthday present to himself.