New medical breakthroughs give hope to cardiac patients

By Dr. Rick Kirshner

February is Heart Month and the perfect time to make a commitment to leading a heart-healthy lifestyle. Whether you or a loved one has heart disease, it’s a good time to educate yourself about resources to help minimize risk for a heart attack or stroke. It’s also timely to discuss medical breakthroughs that could extend and improve quality of life.

Recently, my colleagues and I at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital celebrated the hospital’s 20th anniversary. So much has changed in the past two decades.

For example, heart valve replacement was tricky for even the most precise surgeons 20 years ago. It’s exciting to see the breakthrough technology in this area and how it extends our patients’ quality of life. I’m particularly proud of our involvement in a clinical study of a new therapy to control a heart condition called mitral regurgitation. It’s a dysfunction of the heart valve that affects more than half of Americans, age 70 and older. The condition occurs when blood flows backward through the heart’s mitral valve. Left untreated, it could lead to heart failure or death.

Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital is one of only a handful hospitals in the world taking part in the new Apollo trial for Transcatheter Mitral Valve Replacement (TMVR) therapy. I liken this breakthrough to Star Trek – It’s a game-changer for patient care in that it reduces surgery time and recovery time significantly.

Rather than cracking the chest open, stopping the heart and trying to repair the valve, we go through the apex of the heart with a catheter and deliver the valve into the mitral position. Then we deploy a new valve. The entire process takes about 20 minutes.

Our goal during this two-year clinical trial is to evaluate the safety and efficacy of replacing the valve using the investigational Intrepid TMVR system. We’re pleased with the results so far, and we continue to seek new patients who might be a good fit for this procedure.

Patients have changed, too, over the past two decades – they are more empowered. They’re taking advantage of our cardiac rehab services, they’re joining support groups and participating in our educational seminars to learn a healthier lifestyle. It’s encouraging to see because we can’t do this alone. Patients and their families must take an active role in controlling their health.

We certainly have more work to do. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, one in four deaths in the United States each year is from heart disease. We should all be alarmed by that. Thankfully, there are more breakthrough treatments on the horizon.

Dr. Rick Kirshner is Director of Cardiac Surgery at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital.


 Abrazo Heart Health Public Forum

 When: Friday, Feb. 15 at 6 pm

Where: JW Marriott at Desert Ridge Resort, 5350 E. Marriott Dr., Phoenix

What: Featuring a live broadcast of a cardiac procedure, along with patient and physician storytelling, education about advanced cardiovascular techniques and innovative solutions, and a question-and-answer session with Abrazo cardiovascular specialists.

Free health screenings beginning at 5 pm provided to the first 50 people signing up onsite.

Information: This is a free event. Register at or call 877-934-9355.



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