February 19, 2024

Unlocking Hope: TAVR Redefines Heart Care

By: Ricardo Cigarroa II, M.D., Interventional Cardiologist

As an Interventional Cardiologist, I often liken the heart to a finely crafted house, complete with its intricate plumbing (coronary arteries), electrical system, and four distinct chambers—the heart valves. Together, these components ensure the seamless flow of life-sustaining oxygen from the lungs to the body. While heart attacks frequently dominate heart health discussions, recent years have witnessed groundbreaking strides in addressing heart valve issues, pivotal for maintaining proper blood flow.

Heart valves can fail in various ways, including problems with opening, known as “stenosis,” or closing, termed “regurgitation.” Stenosis restricts blood flow, akin to squeezing through a partially open door, while regurgitation allows blood to flow in multiple directions, hindering optimal function. Unlike the urgent nature of heart attacks, valve issues progress gradually, necessitating timely intervention, as exemplified by a recent patient at the Cigarroa Clinic.

“I could barely be on my feet before having to sit down,” shared Ramona ‘Mona’ Elizalde. “Even while out shopping for groceries, I would have to rest every 15 minutes.”

In the past, patients like Mona relied solely on open-heart surgery to rectify problematic valves. While this lifesaving procedure will produce remarkable results, open-heart surgery is a big undertaking for the body, including risks associated with older age. Fortunately, a decade ago, a groundbreaking breakthrough emerged—Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR).

“When Dr. Ricardo Cigarroa explained to me that he could fix my heart valve without open-heart surgery, I could not believe what he was telling me,” said Ms. Elizalde. “He said he could put a new valve in my heart that would give me back my energy and give me more years to live.”

TAVR, a minimally invasive procedure, involves implanting a new aortic valve through the common femoral artery in the groin. Offering a swift, low-risk procedure with just one to two days of hospitalization, TAVR has proven effective even for younger, lower-risk patients, serving as a compelling alternative to open-heart surgery.

To perform TAVR, a multidisciplinary team of physicians, including interventional cardiologists like myself, cardiac anesthesiologists, and heart surgeons, is essential. Recognizing the critical importance of providing our community with timely access to this lifesaving procedure, I’ve partnered with the University of Texas Health Science Center’s University Hospital in San Antonio, leveraging their excellent facility and expertise.

“When Dr. Cigarroa mentioned I would have to travel to San Antonio for the procedure, I didn’t think anything of it—especially because it meant giving me back my life,” said Ms. Elizalde.

The partnership with University Hospital is also very convenient. Most of the workup on my patients are done in Laredo, cutting down the need for multiple trips both pre- and post-procedure. By the time they arrive at University Hospital, I am already there to welcome them and to perform the procedure. It’s an amazing partnership that provides a continuity of care for our Laredo community, which for Ms. Elizalde, was able to get her back on her feet.

“Dr. Cigarroa said I was the first patient in Laredo to have the TAVR procedure done, and hopefully there will be many more because the day after the procedure, my grandchildren filmed me dancing, and more people like me deserve to dance.”

TAVR isn’t merely a medical procedure—it’s a beacon of hope, offering renewed vitality and joy to patients like Ms. Elizalde and countless others. At the Cigarroa Clinic, we’re not just transforming hearts; we’re transforming lives—one beat at a time.

For more information, call the Cigarroa Clinic at (956) 725-1228. The Clinic is located at 1710 E Saunders St Tower B, Suite 500, and accepts same day appointments.