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Published on August 17, 2017

Al Paggi

Logger was not cut down by faulty heart valve

Minimally invasive transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) has become a life-saving option for those who had few options just a few years ago. Such is the case for 55-year-old Al Paggi of Genoa, Wis.

In his 20s, Al had cancer. Aggressive radiation treatments saved his life, but with residual effects. "They told me I might have heart trouble later in life," recalls Al.

By 2016, a damaged heart valve was becoming life threatening. Al reports, "I'm a logger and work became very difficult. I would get so out of breath."

Sajjad Rizvi, MD

"Mr. Paggi's case required complex decision making across several departments," explains Gundersen heart surgeon Sajjad Rizvi, MD. "Al's aortic valve (in the main heart artery) wasn't working properly. Traditional open-heart surgery to replace the damaged valve was risky because of scarring from his earlier radiation treatments."

In 2014, Gundersen Health System began offering TAVR. Initially, it was FDA-approved only when open heart surgery posed a high risk for patients. This was recently expanded to also include intermediate-risk patients, like Al.

With TAVR, a catheter carrying a collapsed replacement valve is threaded up to the heart through an artery in the groin. Once at the site of the faulty valve, the new valve is expanded into place, pinning the old valve's leaflets out of the way as it takes over the valve's function.

"This is a prime example of how TAVR relies on a specially trained team, using all of our skills to deliver the best treatment option for each patient," states Dr. Rizvi.

"I received absolutely great care. I couldn't believe how fast I improved. Now I feel 100 percent better. It's like I'm a different person," says Al.

If you've been diagnosed with a faulty aortic valve, talk with your cardiologist to see if you might be a candidate for TAVR at Gundersen.