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TAVR heart procedure saved this Wisconsin man’s life

WAUWATOSA, Wis. — Advancements in medicine have led to some better outcomes for many patients dealing with heart problems.

John Losee underwent a procedure this past summer that saved his life. He still keeps in close touch with his cardiologist, Dr. Tanvir Bajwa, at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center.

What You Need To Know

  • John Losee’s artificial heart valve deteriorated after 15 years
  • Losee had a TAVR procedure done to replace the valve
  • The TAVR procedure delivers a replacement valve via a catheter
  • The TAVR procedure is less invasive than open-heart surgery

His heart issues started more than a decade ago.

“I became sick 15 years ago, when my leaky aortic valve became infected with a bacteria. The disease is called endocarditis,” said Losee.

At that time, he underwent open-heart surgery to get a new heart valve and overcame a very difficult recovery process.

This past summer he became gravely ill again. His artificial valve was deteriorating.

“I knew something very drastic needed to happen for me to recover,” said Losee. 

This time, he was referred to Bajwa.

“We didn’t think he was going to make or be alive in the next 12 hours,” said Bajwa. “So, the whole St. Luke’s team — me, Dr. Weiss, and others — sprang into action and took care of him that night.”

They determined a way to replace the heart valve without having to open Losee’s chest for a second open-heart surgery.

“With patients like John, who are very sick and have a valve problem, we can fix the valve with a very minimal invasive procedure going from the groin, and we can replace the valve in there,” said Bajwa.

It’s called a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure, which delivers a replacement valve via a catheter. The inserted valve takes over the job of regulating blood flow and pushes out the old valve.

Cardiac surgeon Dr. Eric Weiss said the TAVR procedure has been around for about 15 years. Aurora St. Luke’s was part of a clinical trial that led to approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“It’s now becoming the standard of care for aortic valve replacement,” said Weiss. “It’s much less invasive and much easier to recover from.”

Weiss said the FDA still recommends patients under the age of 65 have open-heart surgery.

“For younger patients the advantage tends to be that (open-heart) surgery is a little bit easier for lifetime planning,” said Weiss. “If patients get a surgical valve first, we can then later on put a TAVR valve. If we put a TAVR valve in first, sometimes it could be harder to put another TAVR inside a TAVR.”

Losee said he noticed a difference shortly after the surgery.

“As I woke up the next morning with the new valve, I could tell I was better feeling better,” said Losee. “The recovery from that point forward was extremely quick compared to my original open heart surgery.”