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The Newsroom

Peter’s Story: Aortic Heart Valve Replacement

Peter has always done his best to lead a healthy and active life. He got his life’s pleasure from tooling up the California coast in his boat with his late wife of 48 years and their three sons. To this day, Peter doesn’t let anything slow him down, although he’s been retired for almost ten years. At the age of 81, he still holds a part-time job as a chauffeur and spends his free time having lunch with friends and going on walks.

Unfortunately, about five years ago, Peter’s emphysema started to affect his quality of life and his walks seemed just a little more difficult. Even though he was physically fit and active, Peter started to have more and more trouble breathing. At about this time, Peter’s cardiologist found a problem with his heart—his aortic valve was slowly closing and his doctor believed that this could be making his breathing difficult. He and his doctor, Dr. Chad Rammohan, decided to take preventative measures to make sure his heart didn’t get any worse. Peter says that if they hadn’t, “eventually the valve would have closed enough that I couldn’t do anything to get by.”

At the time, El Camino Hospital was involved in a pioneering clinical trial for the Medtronic CoreValve® System, which allows doctors to replace a diseased aortic heart valve through a minimally invasive procedure. These trials led to FDA approval--a significant milestone for patients with severe aortic stenosis.

The CoreValve System is inserted without open-heart surgery and without removal of the diseased valve. Instead, the device is inserted through the leg or upper chest, and guided through the arteries into the heart. The system expands once it is in place and takes over the original valve's function, enabling blood to flow efficiently out of the heart. Because of Peter’s age, which can be a risk factor and the fact that the procedure offered a minimally invasive option, Dr. Rammohan recommended Peter for participation in the clinical trial.

The surgery went off without a hitch, and Peter was back on his feet and walking with a walker the next day. He spent four days in the hospital recovering. In the months and years that followed, Peter attended rehabilitation and therapy appointments regularly, which he says helped with his breathing and quality of life. “They were wonderful people down at El Camino Hospital, I mean from the ladies at the front desk to the doctors, everyone was just wonderful.”

Now, his trips to the hospital are less frequent. “I go in once a year, and they run me through the mill. A complete going over, they check everything. They give me an angiogram, a cardiogram, x-rays, all kinds of tests, stress tests, whatnot,” Peter said. “This year, it was my fifth-year anniversary and Dr. Rammohan told me if there’s any problem, they’ll be in touch, but I don’t need to see him anymore.”

Peter’s heart is working at full capacity, a steady drumbeat that is the backdrop to his active life. To date, El Camino Hospital has performed more than 340 CoreValve procedures and improved the quality of life for many patients like Peter living with this condition, 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.