Buffalo General Hospital is First in Western New York to Utilize New Aortic Valve Replacement Procedure For Cardiac Patients

Released: 1/25/2012

Exciting Alternative for Patients Deemed Inoperable


Left to right: Robert Cecchini; William Morris, MD; Steven Horn, MD; Janice Savey

Buffalo General Hospital has been selected to be the first and only hospital in Western New York to perform a new and lifesaving option for cardiac patients.

Vijay Iyer, MD, PhD, FACC, medical director of cardiology at Kaleida Health and assistant professor of medicine at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (UB), led the team of surgeons who successfully implanted aortic valves in two patients last week (Wednesday, January 18, 2012).

Janice Savey (from Olean) and Robert Cecchini (Tonawanda) were the first two patients in Western New York to successfully undergo surgery.  Both are doing well. 

“Buffalo General Hospital and the TAVR team at Kaleida Health were chosen in an extremely competitive environment, from multiple regional centers and will be only center west of Albany in New York state performing these procedures in the initial phase,” said Vijay Iyer, MD, PhD, FACC, medical director of cardiology at Kaleida Health.  “The volume of cases done at Kaleida Health with the excellent outcomes that the cardiac team has demonstrated over the years, was one of several factors in Edwards choosing Buffalo General.” 

Recently approved by the Federal Drug Administration, the transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a minimally invasive procedure in which an artificial aortic heart valve is attached to a wire frame and guided through the femoral artery by catheter to the heart.  Once in place, the wire frame enlarges, which allows the new valve to pump the blood appropriately. 

Developed by the Edwards Lifesciences Corporation, the transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure gives patients who had previously been deemed inoperable, a life-altering option for treatment of aortic stenosis. 

These are the first such procedures to implant aortic valves performed in Western New York; Buffalo General Hospital is the only facility approved to implant these valves west of Albany in New York State. 

Iyer says that this achievement marks a highly significant collaboration among UB and Buffalo General clinicians; he says it also provides an example of the kinds of benefits patients will see from translational medicine that will be fostered through the new joint UB-Kaleida Health building under construction, consisting of the Gates Vascular Institute and UB’s Clinical Translational Research Center, adjacent to Buffalo General.

“This procedure provides many patients who have been deemed inoperable an opportunity to get what is a life saving treatment with proven improvements in survival and quality of life,” says Iyer.

In a normally functioning heart, blood travels from the left ventricle through the aortic valve and into the aorta where it will be carried throughout the body.  Aortic stenosis-typically a disease of the elderly-occurs when the aortic valve narrows or doesn’t open and close properly, forcing the heart to work harder and much less efficiently. Due to the extra stress, the heart’s muscles weaken over time and the risk of heart failure increases.

Symptoms of aortic stenosis may include chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and fainting.  Studies have shown that, after the onset of severe symptoms, approximately 50 percent of patients will not survive more than two years without aortic valve replacement.

In a relatively healthy patient, aortic stenosis can be treated (but not cured) by medications.  For patients who are not candidates for medication or the medication has ceased to work, surgery is the most effective treatment.

Traditionally however, elderly patients with aortic stenosis, often have other serious health issues as well, and because of their general poor health, have been considered inoperable.  It is these patients who may benefit from TAVR.

“We’re so excited to be able to offer an option to patients who previously didn’t have an option,” said Iyer.  “We have established a highly collaborative approach in developing our team of extremely talented physicians that includes people from private practice, academia, cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, cardiac anesthesiologists and radiologists – all working together to evaluate and develop treatment strategies for this group of complex patients.”

According to the American Heart Association, more than five million Americans are diagnosed with heart valve disease each year. Up to 1.5 million of them suffer from aortic stenosis.

The team of physicians Iyer led to perform the first two cases includes: William Morris MD, interventional cardiologist and UB clinical assistant professor of medicine; Gary Grosner MD, cardiac surgeon and UB clinical assistant professor of surgery; Hashmat Ashraf, MD, cardiac surgeon; Maciej Dryjski MD, vascular surgeon and UB professor of surgery; David Knorz MD cardiac anesthesiology and clinical associate professor of anesthesiology; Steven Horn, MD, cardiac imaging;  Mont Stern MD, cardiac anesthesiology and UB clinical associate professor of anesthesiology; Sonya Noor MD, vascular surgery; UB clinical assistant professor of medicine; Susan Graham MD, cardiology and UB professor of medicine and Charles Chung MD, cardiac radiology and UB clinical assistant professor of radiology.