Time Was On My Side
A birthday wish came early for Bill Ruser, an 84-year-old Scottsdale resident. For the past few years, Bill, like some 300,000 other patients in the United States, suffered from aortic valve stenosis – a narrowing of the aortic valve which impairs the heart’s ability to pump blood. However, Bill was one of the lucky ones. In December 2011, he was the first patient in Arizona to undergo a brand new non-surgical heart procedure, the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) with the EdwardsTM SAPIEN Valve. A medical team of about 25 people performed or assisted with the ground-breaking procedure in Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center’s newly opened Hybrid OR. Just three days later, on December 25, Bill was able to go home. “This was the best birthday present that I could have ever hoped for,” he said.
Bill’s history of heart disease spanned the past several years and more than six months prior to the heart procedure, the former New York native began experiencing shortness of breath and dizziness in everyday activities. Soon after his symptoms became more pronounced, he learned that his heart-valve opening was pin-sized, instead of quarter-sized. “Unfortunately, aortic stenosis happens with time and age,” says Maulik Shah, MD, cardiologist. “Many of these patients, like Bill, have done a great job taking care of themselves; unfortunately once these symptoms start they can progress very rapidly.”
“We were concerned about Mr. Ruser’s deteriorating condition,” says Bill’s physician, Karen Stark, MD, cardiologist. “We were waiting for this new medical technology and hoping that we would be able to offer it to him.”
And as the saying goes, timing is everything. In November 2011, TAVR received approval from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). That same month, Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center opened its state-of-the-art Hybrid OR. “The Hybrid OR combines the best elements of an operating room with 3D imaging technology needed to perform complex catheterization and surgical procedures all in one place, all at one time,” says Robert Riley, MD, medical director and chairman of cardiovascular surgery at Scottsdale Healthcare. “The FDA approved commercial release of the EdwardsTM SAPIEN Valve the first week in November and Scottsdale Healthcare received word that it was among one of the first sites selected in the United States to offer the life-saving procedure, a week later we had the opening of the Hybrid OR.”
“TAVR works like this,” explains David Rizik, MD, director of the Heart and Vascular Division at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center, “during the procedure, the transcatheter heart valve, which is made of bovine (cow) tissue and polyester supported with a stainless-steel mesh frame, is compressed into the end of a thin tube-like catheter. That catheter is inserted into the femoral or groin artery through a small cut in the leg and threaded up through the chest to the diseased valve. The heart valve is released from the catheter and expanded with a balloon and immediately becomes functional.”
Just a few hours after undergoing the breakthrough procedure, Bill was up and walking around, joking with the physicians and nurses. “I couldn’t believe how good I felt! I had the finest physicians and the finest nurses.”
“With approximately 2-7 percent of individuals over the age of 65 afflicted with inoperable aortic stenosis and an aging population, this is a very promising solution,” says Dr. Rizik.
Today, it’s hard to keep up with Bill, who has become a good will ambassador for Scottsdale Healthcare. “I’m back to my active lifestyle which I love,” he says with a broad smile. “I swim and try to walk every day. I feel like the luckiest man alive!”