Freeman celebrates 200-plus milestone

Staff Reports
Surgeon Ray Vetsch performs the TAVR surgery on a patient at Freeman Health System. Photo provided

Patients with severe aortic stenosis — narrowing of the valve in the aorta — can’t risk open-heart surgery. That’s why surgeons at Freeman take a different approach by inserting a replacement valve in the aorta through a vein in the upper thigh. This procedure, called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), requires a team of surgeons and is done under general anesthesia. Freeman is the first area hospital to offer TAVR and the first and only to complete 200 TAVR procedures.

TAVR is done while the heart remains pumping, eliminating the need for a heart-lung machine. The procedure takes an average of 45 minutes to two hours and is done under general anesthesia. Freeman’s median length of in-patient stay post-procedure is 2.06 days.

TAVR patients begin with a referral to Freeman’s Structural Heart Program, which features a collaborative team of interventional cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and echocardiologists. This team focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting the valves and other vital structures of the heart, providing personalized, coordinated care for the patient.

Patients go through a comprehensive screening process with the structural heart team prior to the procedure, and then that same team of physicians places the patient’s new heart valve.

Freeman recognized the members of the TAVR team including cardiothoracic surgeon Ray Vetsch, MD; cardiologist John Nicholas, MD; cardiologist John Cox, DO; cardiologist Ryan Longnecker, MD; and cardiologist Darwin Jeyaraj, MD.