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(Editor's Note: This is the fifth in a series of articles, originally appearing in the Daily Local News, depicting the new features and the new technology incorporated into the expansion of Chester County Hospital.)

WEST CHESTER, PA - Fifteen years ago, most cardiac surgeons would not have predicted any possibility of repairing a heart valve through a small incision in the groin and then sending the patient home within a day or two. Today, that procedure—known as Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR will be available in the near future for appropriate patients at Chester County Hospital.

It's all part of the new $300 million expansion at the Chester County Hospital, where the new technology there puts it on the cutting edge of some of the best hospitals in the nation.

TAVR can be used to treat aortic stenosis, one of the most common and most serious valve disease problems.  Aortic stenosis is a narrowing of the aortic valve opening. Aortic stenosis restricts the blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta and may also affect the pressure in the left atrium.

"Strictly in layman terminology, physicians fold an artificial heart valve the size of a ball point pen spring, deliver it through a catheter in the groin (like a regular stent), and push it into the bad valve opening. The artificial valve is then  expanded in place, leaving the patient with a new aortic valve," said Michael Duncan, president and CEO of Chester County Hospital. "It's amazing technology."

Andy Gordon, Director of Business Development and Strategy at Chester County Hospital, said TAVR is a game changer.

"Before the existence of TAVR, repairing the heart  have always involved an invasive procedure like open heart surgery," he said. "For a lot of frail patients, that's not a viable option  because of the stress it puts on the body and the risk involved."

The new hybrid operating room created by the expansion project allows for some of the most complex, minimally invasive cardiac, vascular and neurovascular procedures that just 10 years ago would have been very difficult, or in some cases impossible.

Treating patients with arrhythmia was often complicated, but made much easier with the new technology at the hospital.

An arrhythmia is a problem with the rate or rhythm of your heartbeat. It means that your heart beats too quickly, too slowly, or with an irregular pattern. When the heart beats faster than normal, it is called tachycardia.

"It can be mapped to the area of the heart where it's not electrically firing right," said Duncan. "So we have electrophysiologists who can electrically map the heart, show a 3D image of the heart’s electrical system, and pinpoint area that is causing the arrhythmia so that it can be effectively treated. Many are then cured of arrhythmia. This is very, very high tech."

The end result for patients is speedier, gentler procedures that require less anesthesia and shorter hospital stays, Duncan said.  


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