Patients in need of heart valve replacement have a new option for care in the Springfield region. A multi-disciplinary team of surgeons and cardiologists with Mercy Health – Springfield Regional Medical Center now offers transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR. Cardiologist Faiq Akhter, MD and Cardiothoracic Surgeon Soumya Neravelta, MD performed the first TAVR procedure at Springfield Regional Medical Center on August 21.

“Our TAVR program is the result of two years of planning and hard work to offer our patients the most advanced treatment option for valve replacement,” said Adam Groshans, President, Mercy Health – Springfield. “I congratulate the entire heart care team on this achievement.” 

TAVR is a minimally invasive method of treating valve disease without open heart surgery. Instead of making a large incision in the chest, the medical team inserts a catheter into one of the leg arteries, which serves as a conduit to deliver the new valve. The new valve is crimped very tightly on a balloon, advanced through the catheter to the diseased valve and put in place with balloon inflation. Upon deflation and removal of the balloon, the new valve is immediately functional and most patients experience instant clinical benefit.

Springfield Regional Medical Center has an experienced TAVR team. Before performing the first procedure at Springfield Regional Medical Center, Dr. Akhter underwent intensive TAVR training, including performing more than 50 TAVR procedures offsite, to ensure patients benefit from a good experience and good outcomes. Dr. Neravetla was the first surgeon formally trained at Emory under Vinod Thourani, MD, a renowned TAVR expert. She launched a successful TAVR program in Savannah, Georgia and has several hundred of TAVR procedures under her belt.   

Sharon Hanlin of St. Paris was Springfield Regional Medical Center’s first TAVR patient and she has only good things to say about her experience. 

“I am more than pleased with the results. I would have been in great pain for days from having my sternum opened. Instead, I was only in the hospital for two nights,” said Hanlin. “I have a bad back and I was limiting my lifestyle and jobs throughout the day. I thought it was due to my back and never thought it was due to my heart. Since the surgery, I have more strength and do more than I was doing prior to surgery. I got great care and feel like Springfield Regional Medical Center was where I belonged.”

TAVR can treat patients with aortic valve stenosis, which is a narrowing of the valve. 

“Patients suffering from any aortic valvular disease may be potential candidates for this approach,” said Akhter, director of cardiology at Springfield Regional Medical Center. “We perform the procedure, which takes less than 60 minutes, in the cardiac cath lab. It carries a very low risk of complications. Patients are generally ready for discharge within 48 hours and can expect a complete recovery within several days.”

“I’m excited to apply my experience and special training to launch this program for the benefit of the people of my hometown,” said Neravetla. “Ensuring the availability of these advanced technologies for the people of Springfield has been my dream, allowing us to dramatically increase the number of people helped, saving lives, right here at home.”

Drs. Akhter and Neravetla are part of a multidisciplinary TAVR team that includes cardiologist Sayed Muhammad Tariq Rizvi, MD, cardiovascular surgeon Amit Arora, MD and the wider cardiology team involved in preparing patients for the procedure. The TAVR team performs the procedure at Mercy Health – Springfield Regional Medical Center.