Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Performs 1,000th 'TAVR' to Replace Failing Heart Valves
August 25, 2021 – Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital recently performed its 1,000th transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), an innovative, minimally invasive procedure to help the heart more effectively pump blood to the rest of the body.
Virtua Health is one of only two South Jersey health systems to have reached this milestone. Virtua performed its first TAVR in 2013 and has become a leading center for heart valve surgery.
“This achievement is a true team effort, reflective of a collaborative, comprehensive approach to care,” said Ibrahim Moussa, DO, FACC, FSCAI, RPVI, an interventional cardiologist and medical director of the Structural Heart Program at Virtua Health. “It is gratifying to have improved the lives of so many people in South Jersey – and to know that we will continue to support our community in this vital way.”
TAVR treats aortic stenosis, a buildup of calcium on the leaflets of the aortic valve in the heart. Over time, the leaflets become stiff, reducing their ability to open and close fully. As a result, the heart has to work harder to pump blood to the rest of the body. The heart may weaken, causing chest pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
TAVR uses a catheter threaded through an artery to insert a new valve inside the heart. Once opened, the new valve pushes aside the old one and begins to work immediately, restoring proper blood flow and instantly improving symptoms. Patients usually spend only one night in the hospital.
The procedure was initially developed as an alternative for people with aortic stenosis who, due to age or other medical conditions, were considered too high-risk for open-chest surgery. Over the years, the procedure has been expanded for use in younger, often healthier people at lower risk for complications.
Cape May resident Edward Owens underwent TAVR at Virtua last year at age 73. The procedure helped him return to good health, he said.
“I feel great. I have energy,” reported Owens, who has returned to doing small jobs as a carpenter.
“I’d recommend that hospital to everyone. They are caring and loving. They were really fantastic.”
Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital is nationally recognized for excellence in cardiac care, its dedication to safety, and outstanding patient outcomes.
In April 2019, Dr. Moussa and Arthur Martella, MD, Virtua’s chief of cardiothoracic surgery, were the first in the country to use a TAVR valve for a transcatheter mitral valve replacement (TMVR) in a pregnant woman.
The Virtua team continues to innovate. Although TAVRs are most often performed through the femoral artery (in the upper leg), this spring, a 75-year-old Gloucester County resident became one of the first in the region to undergo the procedure through the carotid artery in the neck.
“Our depth of experience allows us to not only immediately put into practice the latest guidelines for TAVR, but to set the bar as well,” said Dr. Martella. “Whether that’s using alternative access sites, combining it with a robot-assisted coronary artery bypass, or developing a plan to care for a mother and her unborn baby, we continually look to use this procedure to change the lives of our patients.”
“As a cardiologist and health care executive, I’ve had the privilege to work closely with the extraordinary structural heart team as the TAVR program has grown and matured,” said Reginald Blaber, MD, MBA, FACC, Virtua executive vice president and chief clinical officer. “The fact that we have reached this important milestone as rapidly as we did is a testament to the faith the community places in us to care for their health.”