By Ziyad Hijazi, MD, MPH
I often see patients whose health is extremely poor, such as the 85-year-old man who came to the Rush Valve Clinic with severe aortic valve stenosis, lung disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In fact, he was so sick that we had to admit him to the hospital immediately.
Our multidisciplinary team — myself, interventional cardiologist Clifford Kavinsky, MD, PhD, and cardiovascular surgeon Robert March, MD — met to discuss his case. We were not optimistic about his chances. Due to his lung disease and COPD, he was very frail and would not have survived surgery to repair the valve. Given his fragile condition, we thought maybe we shouldn’t subject him to treatment of any kind.
But even though this man was physically very sick, his mind was sharp and he had a lot to live for. He wasn’t ready to give up, so I didn’t want to give up on him. Fortunately, because he was not a candidate for surgery, he was eligible for a clinical trial where we implant a new valve using a catheter. This gentleman was one of the first patients to receive a percutaneous aortic valve, and as a result of getting the new valve, today he is feeling great. Even with lung disease and COPD, he is able to go places with his family and enjoy his life.
It has been inspiring to see how much this procedure improved his quality of life. It made me realize that there is hope for even the sickest of the sick, and now I am even more determined to find new options for patients who cannot undergo surgery. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the percutaneous aortic valve for inoperable patients because of patients like this man who participated in the trials and had such good outcomes.
Ziyad Hijazi, MD, MPH, is director of the Rush Center for Congenital and Structural Heart Disease.