GRAPHIC: Heart surgeries increase in Southern Colorado

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Only a small percentage of patients receive percutaneous valve replacement surgery, or TAVR, but the overall number of heart surgeries have increased for Penrose St. Francis Health System.

“A few years ago we did about 200 cases a year, we’re almost at 500 cases a year right now,” said Chris Valentine, spokesman for Penrose St. Francis Health Services.

TAVR is a minimally invasive approach to valve replacement by open heart surgery. Penrose first offered the procedure two years ago and is the only medical center in Southern Colorado to offer it.

“It’s a very unique, but very proven technique where you put a stent valve in an existing disease valve,” said Betty Kim, MD, cardiac surgeon at Penrose.

Penrose brings in qualified patients from a wide region stretching from New Mexico, Kansas and more.

“It works great, patients do very well. And they go home in about two, three days versus you know, conventional aortic valve replacement, maybe five to seven days,” Kim said.

Experts say the procedure is designed for patients suffering chest pain or heart failure symptoms, and are considered in-operable or high risk.

“This procedure will improve someone’s survival better than someone who has no procedure and medically treated. So, more of these patients are kind of coming out of the woodwork and being offered a procedure and they’re doing very well,” Kim said.

So far this year, nearly 35 cases of TAVR have been performed. Trials in Europe are being done to determine if lower risk patients could qualify for the procedure in the future and local doctors say they expect to also see it happen in the U.S.

Kim is just one of 35 board certified heart surgeons practicing adult cardiac surgery in the country and is the only female heart surgeon in the state of Colorado.

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