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Dot’s Story

Dot’s Story: Aortic Heart Valve Replacement

In 2010, El Camino Hospital was one of the first 40 U.S. sites involved in a groundbreaking clinical trial for the Medtronic CoreValve® System, which led to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the system. This FDA approval was a significant development for patients with severe aortic stenosis who previously had no other treatment options.

Aortic stenosis is a common heart problem caused by a narrowing of the heart's aortic valve due to excessive calcium deposited on the valve leaflets. When the valve narrows, it doesn’t function properly, making the heart work harder. Eventually, this causes the heart to weaken and function poorly, which may lead to heart failure and increased risk for sudden cardiac death.

The CoreValve System allows doctors to replace a diseased aortic heart valve through a minimally invasive procedure, without open-heart surgery and without removal of the diseased valve. The device is inserted via an artery in the leg or upper chest, and then guided through the arteries into the heart. Once in place, the CoreValve System expands and takes over the original valve's function to enable blood to flow efficiently out of the heart.

 Dot’s cardiologist Dr. Frederick St. Goar told her about an experimental treatment for her condition. She was referred to Dr. James Joye, interventional cardiologist and co-primary investigator of the trial, for evaluation and surgery. “A lot of older people can’t withstand having their chest opened up and this seemed like a much better option,” says Dot. “Before the CoreValve was inserted, I had transfusions every two weeks and I felt so weak all the time. I was tired of being tired all the time. I felt wonderful afterward and I still do!”

Rehabilitation was an important part of Dot’s recovery process. Following her surgery, hospital staff had her up and moving around. She spent a week recovering in the hospital followed by another week at the inpatient Rehabilitation Center at El Camino Hospital Los Gatos gaining her strength to return home to safely live independently. Several weeks after her surgery, Dot started cardiac rehabilitation classes at the Cardiac & Pulmonary Wellness Center where she focused on exercises that helped build her endurance.

“After about a month, I could drive again. The operation was great and it has given me many more years of life. I can do all the things I like to do, so it was worth it,” explains Dot. “For follow up, I go to see Dr. St. Goar every two or three months for a check-up, but that’s about it. Dr. St. Goar calls me his poster child.”

At almost 91 years young, Dot is still driving and very active socially within her mobile home community. She participates in “sit and be fit” exercises, assists with the social club and picnics and likes to play Bunco. “I keep very busy. I like to go out with friends and there are always plenty of things to do,” shares Dot. “I enjoy traveling to see my children and grandchildren too.”

To date, El Camino Hospital has performed more than 150 CoreValve procedures and improved the quality of life for many patients like Dot living with aortic stenosis, extending and helping them to live their lives to the fullest.

This is one patient's story, individual results may vary. Speak with your doctor to determine care that’s right for you.