Heart Procedure Updates: TAVR Program Celebrates Two Years of Improving Patients' Lives



The Trans-catheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) Program at the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center celebrated its second anniversary with a dinner for patients and referring physicians in September. The TAVR procedure is a minimally invasive catheter-based treatment option for patients who are considered too ill to survive open-heart surgery to replace aortic valves affected by severe aortic stenosis. In this condition, the valve does not open properly and blood cannot leave the heart chambers to get out to the rest of the body.

“We have completed a total of 64 cases with the vast majority having positive outcomes as illustrated by the patient stories we heard,” said Kapil Lotun, MD, associate professor of medicine and director of the Structural Heart Disease Program and Vascular Medicine in Cardiology. “The credit goes to our TAVR team, which includes administrative support, the cardiac catheterization lab, operating room staff, nurse practitioners, perfusionists and other physicians.” “With new up-and-coming technologies our cardiology division, in collaboration with the entire heart team, we will be expanding current programs and starting new programs to treat heart valve and other heart problems less invasively. This will increase our ability to help more people in the community,” added Dr. Lotun.

One new technology is the CoreValve, a design that has a broader range of aortic valve sizes. This will allow interventional cardiologists to treat a wider patient population at the University of Arizona Medical Center – University Campus. The MitralClip is another option for patients with leaking mitral valves who are at high surgical risk for traditional mitral valve replacement or repair. “This special patient population now has the option of receiving treatment here in Tucson via minimally invasive techniques,” said Dr. Lotun.


Back to Gardening

Wynema Schwarz’s cardiologist referred her to the TAVR program two years ago as a last resort. Pictured with her son, Tyron Schwarz, her energy and strength have returned and she is back to gardening at age 82.

From Hospital to Karaoke

Billie Jo Harris (right), originally diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), came to the UA cardiology practice for a second opinion and learned she had a valve condition that qualified her for the TAVR procedure. Now, she and her husband, Bobbie Harris, enjoy belting out Karaoke tunes and singing in the church choir. “We went to a Karaoke party the Thursday after my hospital discharge,” said Mrs. Harris. An 83-year-old composer and songwriter, one of her songs was selected to be part of their church’s Christmas music this year.

Back to Globetrotting

Benjamin Herman, PhD, had his first valve replacement with triple bypass surgery in 2003. A retired professor and chairman of the UA Atmospheric Sciences Program, he is an avid traveler and iris aficionado who visited Australia in 2013 to attend an iris convention and watch the penguin parade. During the parade, he felt dizzy and passed out. When he returned home, Samir Dahdal, MD, cardiologist and clinical assistant professor of medicine, evaluated Mr. Herman who was approved for TAVR instead of open-heart surgery. “Since then, I have attended the iris convention in Victoria, Canada, and a global-warming conference in New York,” said Mr. Herman, who presented special iris bulbs to Monique Ramirez, RN, BSN, TAVR clinical coordinator.

Ready to Travel

When Betty Hupp (age 85) woke up following her TAVR procedure, she told her daughter, “I feel fantastic. Let’s go on a trip.” Another family member’s illness has turned her into a caregiver and delayed her travel plans, but she intends to go traveling once the situation improves. “It’s a pleasure to have this team on our side. I have a new life,” said Mrs. Hupp, pictured with Kapil Lotun, MD, associate professor and director of the Structural Heart Disease Program and Vascular Medicine in Cardiology.

For more information or to refer a patient, contact: 
Phone: (520) 694-4686 • Fax: (520) 694-1007 • BUMCTStructuralHeart@bannerhealth.com

For more health information, please visit our  Heart Health page.

For physician appointment information, please call 520-MyHeart (694-3278).

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