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Minimally invasive TAVR procedure repairs patient’s heart valve

Monday, July 8, 2019

Ed Pufunt first experienced heart trouble in 1999 when doctors at another healthcare system said he needed emergency quadruple bypass surgery. The 85-year-old recalls spending five days in the hospital and another two months at home recovering.

Maen Nusair, M.D., Medical Director of the Structural Heart Program at NCH, greets TAVR patient Ed Pufunt at a follow-up visit.

When he began to have trouble breathing this year, he ended up in the hands of Maen Nusair, M.D., Medical Director of the NCH Structural Heart Program, who diagnosed him with severe aortic valve stenosis. This issue restricts blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta. Dr. Nusair performs minimally invasive heart procedures in NCH’s new Hybrid Catheterization Lab/Operating Room Suite, which opened in May.

Ed was worried and nervous at the thought of another major heart surgery, but Dr. Nusair explained that he could perform a minimally invasive procedure called TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve replacement) to repair his aortic valve. It’s the same procedure that fixed Mick Jagger’s heart, enabling him to return to a national concert tour in less than three months.

“When I met Dr. Nusair, he patted me on the leg and said, ‘Edward, don’t worry about a thing. I’m going to take care of you,’” Ed says.

Ed was one of the first patients in the new state-of-the-art hybrid suite. His TAVR procedure was performed on May 30 and involved inserting a catheter and balloon to place a new valve in his heart. In less than three hours – many cases are even faster – Ed had a new valve that began working immediately.

Compared to open-heart surgery, TAVR reduces blood loss, risk of infection and recovery time. Ed says he experienced no pain after the procedure and was discharged from the hospital two days later.

“We were able to offer him a valve replacement at a much lower risk and at the same time, very conveniently near his home where he’s had his previous medical care with the people he’s learned to trust over the years,” Dr. Nusair says.

Team effort

Successful patient outcomes are the result of a collaborative team with significant combined experience in interventional cardiology, structural heart disease and cardiac surgery.

“This expertise came together in one team to help launch a strong program at NCH,” Dr. Nusair says. 

Recovery

Ian and Judy Black, Ed’s relatives, flew in from out of state to offer post-procedure care at home. They were impressed with how quickly their uncle was back on his feet and doing his normal activities.

“He was up and wandering around the next day and I had to tell him to use his walker,” Ian says. “It was just fascinating. Even though I’m out of state, I’d consider coming to NCH for heart care. I want to go someplace where I know I’m going to be taken care of and this was a great success.”

As a semi-retired pharmacist, Ian knows a thing or two about major heart surgery. “It usually means a big scar and an eight-week recovery,” Ian says.

Ed has no large scars. He’s breathing much better and walking regularly. Among his future goals, the world traveler and retired hospitality executive is hoping to make road trips to the Lake Geneva area where he and his late wife Dolores used to own a home.

Convenient, close-to-home care

Ed has been seeing NCH Medical Group Primary Care Physician Michael Glickman, M.D. for many years, since NCH is close to his Schaumburg home. He’s been receiving at-home physical therapy from NCH twice a week. After that, he can work with therapists and gain stamina in the Cardiopulmonary Rehab Program offered at the NCH Wellness Center.

(L to R) Dana Trawczynski, R.N., Valve Clinic Coordinator; Maen Nusair, M.D., Medical Director of the Structural Heart Program; and Dena Pelletreau, DNP, APN, R.N., Advanced Nurse Practitioner.

At a recent follow-up visit that included an echocardiogram and blood work, Ed met with Advanced Nurse Practitioner Dena Pelletreau, DNP, APN, R.N., and Valve Clinic Coordinator Dana Trawczynski, R.N., who checked his vitals and assessed his fitness and breathing. He then met with Dr. Nusair who gave him the green light to travel by plane to visit Judy and Ian in Sun Valley, Idaho. His next follow-up visit is in six months.

Ed hardly can contain his admiration for Dr. Nusair, who he calls “one of the greatest doctors in the world.”

“He’s a marvelous man, a compassionate listener and a great communicator who explained everything in detail,” Ed says.

For more information on NCH’s Center for Heart Valve Disease, visit nch.org/valve. Watch a video of Ed’s TAVR, featuring the valve placement portion of the procedure.

No case is the same; results may vary.

Physicians
  • Maen Nusair

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