Adam's Heart Valve Surgery Blog

Get the latest news, patient advice and insights about heart valve surgery from Adam Pick, patient, author and website founder

Patient Success: TAVR Saves Stella’s Life

I’m very fortunate to meet many patients with heart valve disease. It’s always interesting to hear how each patient has a unique story specific to their valvular disorder.

Stella McClellan is a perfect example of this phenomena. Within 30 seconds of meeting Stella, I was captivated by her story. I mean… When someone tells you they were about to die from aortic stenosis, how can you not want to learn more. This is Stella’s patient success story thanks to a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

Many thanks to Stella and Glenda, her sister, for sharing their story with me. Also, many thanks to Dr. Chris Malaisrie, Dr. Mark Ricciardi, Dr. Hyde Russell and the entire Northwestern Medicine team for their wonderful care of Stella.

Keep on tickin’ Stella!

P.S. For the hearing impaired members of our community, I have provided a written transcript of this video below.

Mark Ricciardi: My name is Mark Ricciardi. I’m one of the Interventional Cardiologists, and I oversee the section of international cardiology here at Northwestern. I’ve been in practice for about 15 years. I typically do the following procedures. They’re procedures that are minimally invasive and what we call transcatheter procedures. That means that I can apply therapies to the heart through catheters, which are small tubes put in various arteries. I typically work on the supply of the heart as well as the valves in the heart.

Chris Malaisrie: My name is Chris Malaisrie. I’m a Cardiac Surgeon at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute of Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. I’ve been a cardiac surgeon at Northwestern for seven years. My focus of cardiac surgery is in valvular heart disease as well as aortic disease. What attracted me to cardiac surgery is the opportunity to help patients in an immediate and quick fashion. It’s always amazing to me how small an operation, such as a valve replacement or a valve repair, can lead to such a great improvement in patients’ symptoms.

Mark Ricciardi: Interventional cardiology also allows for a lot of innovation. Whenever you try to treat diseases and ailments, there’s always this drive for innovation to do things more efficiently, with smaller devices, and ones that are much better tolerated. TAVR embodies a lot of what we think about interventional cardiology, minimizing risk with the maximum outcome. It’s the perfect minimally invasive interventional cardiology treatment.

Chris Malaisrie: TAVR is an acronym for transcatheter aortic valve replacement. It’s a treatment for patients who are at higher risk or inoperable with aortic stenosis.

Stella McClellan:  My name is Stella McClellan. I’m 70 years old and I live in Tampa, Florida. Everybody told me I was going to die. They didn’t beat around the bush; they told me I was going to die.  Northwestern had come up with a new way to do things that didn’t entail open-heart surgery but he didn’t know if I’d be a candidate for it or not.

Glenda Chapman, Stella’s sister: Every doctor she went to told her that she couldn’t make it with open-heart surgery. She has to get stronger and stronger, but she wasn’t getting no stronger; she was getting weaker.

Mark Ricciardi: Mrs. McClellan was a very good candidate for the TAVR procedure because she was one of those patients who we were very concerned may not tolerate a conventional surgical approach.

Stella McClellan: He went and wrote to Dr. Russell. They interviewed me and had me come in, and within a week or so I was having my surgery.

Mark Ricciardi: She had a disease process that left untreated would likely cause her demise.

Chris Malaisrie: Aortic stenosis is a disease of the aortic valve, where the valve becomes too tight. It restricts blood flowing from the heart to the rest of the body. Aortic stenosis causes severe symptoms of shortness of breath, chest pain, and sometimes passing out. If left untreated, it can lead to heart failure.

Stella McClellan: I’m just very happy. I would recommend Northwestern and the surgery I’ve had done to anybody.

Mark Ricciardi: Mrs. McClellan did very well with her procedure. She recovered quickly. She was home quickly. She did what we expect our patients to do who went through her type of procedure, which is to recovery rapidly and see almost an immediate improvement in symptoms.

Chris Malaisrie: My advice to patients, who have aortic stenosis and are looking at TAVR as an option for treatment, is to seek a team that is a multi-disciplinary team, otherwise known as a heart valve team. These patients can be seen by both cardiac surgery and interventional cardiologist.

Glenda Chapman: Northwestern is the best. They really treated my sister very, very good.

Stella McClellan: They waited on me hand and foot. Maybe I’ve played them up a little.

In Memory of Lisa and Dr. Davidson

As many of you know, I am an optimist.

I truly believe that every dark tunnel — no matter how dark — has light at the end of it. I truly believe that for every situation — no matter how unfortunate it may be — there is something to learn from, something to grow from, something to challenge ourselves with.

However, this optimism has its moments. My hopes are tested. And, my resolve to stay positive can feel completely dislocating.

During the past 30 days, I experienced two of these foreign moments.

In memory of Lisa Fuller and Dr. Michael Davidson

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Top 10 Heart Valve Stories of 2014!

During 2014, our community actively discussed many topics specific to the management and the treatment of heart valve disease. As we prepare to enter 2015, I thought it might be helpful to look back at the stories that generated the most interest and social sharing during the past twelve months.

Top 10 Heart Valve Blogs of 2014

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5 Healthy Gifts for the New Year!

As many of the gift giving holidays just passed, there is no better time to start focusing on a healthy new year. That said, here are a 5 healthy gift ideas (and tips) to help you — and those around you — during 2015!

So you know… The CDC states that an unbelievable 26.6 million adults in the United States are diagnosed with heart disease. If your parent, spouse, child or friend has shown an interest in adopting a healthier lifestyle, this is a prime opportunity to help them on their way. When the time comes for gift-giving, be it a holiday, birthday or other celebration, you can support their efforts with these five gift ideas that will keep your loved ones going strong on the journey for better health.

4 Health Gifts


1. Make Nutrition Easy

There’s an old adage that says, “You can’t out-train a bad diet.” The nutrition piece of the wellbeing puzzle is an especially important part that is often the most difficult for health-seekers. Poor eating habits are hard to break, and even the slightest enticing treat can throw someone entirely off track. Many people find that nutritious meals take more time to make, and cost more money, so are less incited to make the effort. But you can change this.

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Surgeon Q&A: “Can Aortic Stenosis and Aortic Regurgitation Result in Over Exertion & High Stress?” Asks Mark

I just received a great question from Mark about symptoms and potential, patient limitations relating to aortic stenosis and aortic regurgitation.

In his email, Mark writes, “Adam, I was diagnosed in 1999 with Aortic Regurgitation at age 47 and receive annual echos and check up. This year 2014 at age 62, I was diagnosed with Aortic Stenosis, I believe moderate at 1.2 to 1.5 CM2. I have reported to my cardiologist mild shortness of breath and very regular and annoying palpations. My job is high stress and at times includes extreme over exertion. I can’t seem to keep up and at times feel very fatigued, short of breath and ill.  My cardiologist is great, but he said my age may be the primary reason, not my heart disease. My primary care physician tends to disagree and thinks my Aortic Stenosis is primarily responsible. My question is with moderate aortic stenosis and aortic regurgitation, is there risk to extreme over exertion, and high stress? I am asking for your opinion because of your knowledge on the subject.”

Stress Symptoms Aortic Stenosis

I wanted to provide Mark an expert response to his question so I contacted Dr. Jeff Gibson, a cardiac surgeon from Nashville, Tennessee. So you know, Dr. Gibson has treated many members of our community including LaTonya Blair, Thomas Bryant and Carol Chandler. :)

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