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Sun, Oct. 20

Revolutionary, life-changing heart procedure launched

Doctors performing the transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure.

Doctors performing the transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure.

Cardiac care in northern and central Arizona will take a leap forward this month with the introduction of the transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) at the The James Family Heart Center located in the Yavapai Regional Medical Center’s west campus.

“TAVR is a significant milestone on many levels,” said Dr. Pierre Tibi, cardiothoracic surgeon and medical director of the heart center.


A graphic detailing the procedure.

“It’s life altering for people who are not eligible for traditional valve replacement surgery due to their complex medical status. It’s also important because it expands and elevates healthcare throughout our region,” Tibi said.

Valve replacement surgery – considered the gold standard for treating heart valve disease by cardiothoracic surgeons – is an open heart procedure during which the chest is surgically separated. TAVR, however, is performed through extremely small openings that leave the chest bones in place. While valve replacement surgery typically requires a seven-day hospitalization, people undergoing TAVR are usually hospitalized for three days and back to a normal routine soon after.

“We’re introducing TAVR at exactly the right time,” Dr. Tibi said. “We didn’t want to adopt it before it was determined to be a technique that had merit. We also didn’t want people leaving the community for the procedure.”

TAVR procedures will be performed in YRMC’s recently opened hybrid operating room suite, considered to be among the finest in the nation. In this operating room, heart specialists diagnose patients using permanently integrated imaging equipment. Immediately following the diagnosis, they are able to perform a non-invasive, therapeutic procedure. But it can be quickly converted into a traditional operating room, allowing a seamless transition to a fully functional surgical suite without moving the patient.

“YRMC’s leadership made a substantial investment in the hybrid operating room,” YRMC Executive Director John Amos of the multi-million expenditure. “Because of the vision of Dr. Tibi and YRMC’s Board of Directors, as well as the support of the YRMC Foundation and our community, we have all of the tools in place for TAVR.”

This procedure is performed by specially trained YRMC cardiac interventionalists and surgeons who are able to repair the aortic valve without removing the old, damaged valve. Instead, they insert a replacement valve into the aortic valve’s place. Once the new valve is expanded, it will push the old valve leaflets out of the way and the tissue in the replacement valve will take over the job of regulating blood flow. This process is somewhat similar to stent replacement as TAVR uses a catheter to deliver a fully collapsible replacement valve to the valve site.

The Food and Drug Administration currently recommends TAVR for people considered too high risk for traditional valve replacement surgery. For that reason, most TAVR candidates are in their 70s or 80s and often have other complicating medical conditions, such as diabetes or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“Eventually, TAVR likely will be expanded to include people considered less high risk,” Tibi said.

The introduction of TAVR at The James Family Heart Center is supported by an expansion of the hospital’s cardiac care program. YRMC now has a cardiac electrophysiologist and three new cardiologists.

“I’m impressed by the quality of physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers in our Heart Program,” said Tibi who moved to the Prescott area from Phoenix in 2009 to help establish the heart center. “I’ve watched the development of heart programs throughout Arizona for years. YRMC’s is the most stable and steadily growing program that’s been started in the past 15 years.”

For more information about TAVR visit the YRMC website at

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