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Cottage Heart and Vascular Center Performs Area’s First TAVR Heart Procedure

Evelyn Alberts successfully received the first TAVR procedure in the Santa Barbara area. Click to view larger
Evelyn Alberts successfully received the first TAVR procedure in the Santa Barbara area. (Cottage Health photo)

The Cottage Heart and Vascular Center at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital is the first facility in the area to offer patients an alternative to open-heart surgery for aortic valve replacement.

In September, a team of cardiothoracic surgeons, interventional cardiologists and a dedicated team of nurses and technicians performed the first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) in the Santa Barbara area.

TAVR is the first non-surgical procedure for the replacement of the aortic valve.

Patients such as 90 year-old Evelyn Alberts now have another option to open-heart surgery. After experiencing dizziness and shortness of breath, doctors determined that Alberts was one of 1.5 million Americans who suffer from aortic stenosis.

She was at too high of a risk for open-heart surgery and was a perfect candidate for the TAVR procedure. After the innovative heart procedure, Alberts feels like she has just received “a second chance in life” and has regained her active and independent lifestyle.

Aortic stenosis is a serious medical condition where the aortic valve begins to narrow, reducing blood flow from the aorta to the rest of the body. Aortic valve replacement is a standard procedure to treat such patients, but it involves open-heart surgery, for which not all patients are candidates.

TAVR gives new hope for these high-risk patients who suffer from severe aortic stenosis. Untreated, aortic valve stenosis can lead to serious heart problems including heart failure and even death.

What differentiates TAVR from open-heart surgery is that a team of specialists places a collapsible aortic heart valve into the body via a catheter that is inserted through the leg and threaded up to the heart. This breakthrough technology means a surgical incision through the chest is not needed. 

"We've seen remarkable results already with this new program. It fills a need for treating our most fragile cardiac patients, to provide an option that will help them regain strength without having to heal from an open-heart surgery," said Joseph Aragon, M.D., interventional cardiologist from Sansum Clinic, who is part of the TAVR team that performs this procedure at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

"We're proud to be able to offer this level of advanced care in our region," Aragon said.

Maria Zate is the manager of public relations for Cottage Health.

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