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New cardiac procedure keeps Interior Health patients closer to home

The TAVI team poses at Kelowna General Hospital. — Submitted photos

Nick Stobbart suffered from shortness of breath, and it kept him from getting around as much as he would have liked. The culprit? Heart failure, due to a bad aortic valve that twice landed the 89-year-old in hospital. The timing could not have been worse, as his wife of 60 years was at home receiving palliative care for cancer.

Nick needed a procedure to repair the valve, but didn’t relish the idea of having to travel far from his wife and family. As it turns out, he didn’t have to.

On Oct. 4, 2018, Nick was among the first patients in Interior Health to undergo a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation, or TAVI, procedure. He had the procedure at Kelowna General Hospital and shortly thereafter was discharged home without complications, where he was well enough to be by his wife’s side when she passed away on Oct. 19, 2018.

“The whole procedure was seamless,” says Nick. “I was impressed with all of the team at the cardiac unit. My pulse now has a nice, solid thump.”

Interior Health’s Cardiac Program, in collaboration with Cardiac Services BC, began offering TAVI procedures in September 2018, with plans for 30 procedures per year.

“Having TAVI procedures available in the Interior Health region means people have more access to quality care close to home,” says Health Minister Adrian Dix. “I’m proud of the collaborative efforts of Interior Health and Cardiac Services BC to bring this procedure to the region, as well as the team of skilled health care workers and professionals who deliver such excellent care.”

“TAVI not only increases patients’ life expectancy but improves their quality of life,” says Dr. Steven Hodge, Medical Director of the TAVI program, who performed the procedure. “A lot of work has gone on provincially and within Interior Health to ensure that we provide the best care for our cardiac patients.”

TAVI is for patients such as Nick who are not candidates for open-heart surgery due to the high risks of advanced age or frailty. Minimally invasive, TAVI is performed by inserting a catheter through the femoral artery in the groin to deliver an artificial valve inside the existing aortic valve.

“TAVI has proven an effective treatment for patients who otherwise would have limited options available to them,” says Dr. Guy Fradet, Medical Director of the Cardiac Program at Interior Health. “We’re pleased that we’re now able to offer TAVI to patients across the Interior Health region. As of mid-January, 22 patients meeting the criteria have undergone the procedure.”

“As a minimally invasive procedure, TAVI is a welcome option for eligible patients, as well as their families. I commend Interior Health’s Cardiac Program for bringing this new treatment to patients in IH,” says Dr. Doug Cochrane, Interior Health Board Chair.

The addition of TAVI to the Interior Health Cardiac Program resulted from the collaborative work between the Interior Health TAVI team and the Provincial TAVI clinical team at Cardiac Services BC, a program of the Provincial Health Services Authority.

“These teams worked closely to ensure the development and delivery of a high-quality, evidence-based procedure,” says Carol Laberge, Provincial Executive Director, Cardiac Services BC. “Interior Health patients will now benefit from the convenience and comfort of receiving their TAVI closer to home.”

Nick Stobbart, like many TAVI patients, is grateful to return to many of the activities he once enjoyed, and his family is there to support him.

“I walk for half an hour every day with my son,” says Nick. “And I hope to start fishing again.”

Patient Nick Stobbart is all smiles now that he's at home seven weeks after his TAVI procedure. — Submitted photo