Patient Success Story: After TAVR Procedure, John Gerlits Is Out Of The Hospital In Two Days!

By Adam Pick on October 25, 2013

Recently, I met John Gerlits, a patient diagnosed with aortic valve stenosis four years ago. As John had a history of heart disease, he qualified for the new transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure. If you didn’t know, TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure in which the aortic valve is replaced without an incision to the patient’s sternum or ribs.



To help patients in our community learn more about John, I created this educational video. In the video, you will also hear from John’s physicians — Dr. Chris Malaisrie, cardiac surgeon, and Dr. James Flaherty, interventional cardiologist — about the use of TAVR for inoperable and high risk patients. For the hearing impaired members of our community, I have provided a written transcript of this video below.

I hope this video helped you learn more about John Gerlits and the use of the TAVR procedure for aortic stenosis patients — who are at high risk or inoperable.

Here is the written transcript of the TAVR success story video of John Gerlits:

Dr. Chris Malaisrie: I’ve been staff cardiac surgeon here at Northwestern Memorial Hospital for over five years. I’ve performed more than 1,000 cardiac operations. More than half are valve related. My specialty is minimally invasive valve replacement and repairs — either through a keyhole incision or transcatheter operations. What I love about Northwestern is that I can offer a cardiac operation that makes a major difference in someone’s life and being able to come in and see patients make a full recovery after their heart operation is a great satisfaction to me.

Dr. James Flaherty: I am an interventional cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Interventional cardiology is a field where you can do procedures that make a dramatic difference in a relatively short amount of time for patients. TAVR is an abbreviation for transcatheter aortic valve replacement. It’s a way to replace the aortic valve through catheters instead of traditional surgery.

Dr. Chris Malaisrie: It’s a procedure that can be done without cardiopulmonary bypass. It is a minimally invasive approach. The procedure involves placing a stented valve on top of the native valve that is deployed through a small needle-hole in the groin. The alternative access includes a small incision through the left chest (transapical) or a small incision through the upper sternum.

Dr. James Flaherty: TAVR is the biggest development in interventional cardiology since the invention of the coronary stent and any time something this revolutionary is developed, it generates our interest. TAVR has been part of my practice since 2007. I’m personally involved in more than 150 TAVR cases. I find that it’s a great compliment to my minimally invasive open heart surgery operations that I offer my valve patients.

John Gerlits:  I had a TAVR procedure at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. I was born and raised in Chicago. I’m 83 years old. I was diagnosed with a heart valve problem, the closing of the opening in the aortic valve four years ago. I experienced shortness of breath — whenever I undertook exercise or any real exertion. Something had to be done before it closed completely.

Dr. Chris Malaisrie: We do recognize that there’s a lot of patients who are over 80, elderly, who would otherwise not do very well with the open-heart procedure. What attracts them to TAVR the most is we’re able to serve this under-treated segment of people with aortic stenosis with a minimally invasive operation with quicker recovery.

John Gerlits: I was very pleased when I first met Dr. Malaisrie. He was very clear on the procedure, made himself available for any questions that I or my wife might have, the confidence that he had that this would turn out well.

Dr. Chris Malaisrie: The heart team is a very important concept in TAVR. The management of the patients is conducted by a specialized team, which includes cardiac surgery, cardiology, interventional cardiology, anesthesiologist, echocardiographer, and a radiologist.

Dr. James Flaherty: Mr. Gerlitz was a good candidate for TAVR because he’s an older gentleman, and TAVR’s designed for patients that have either previous heart problems or other medical problems that make traditional surgery higher risk.

Dr. Chris Malaisrie: Mr. Gerlitz made a full recovery after his TAVR procedure. He received a second-generation TAVR valve under trial and had a fully functional valve with no problems.

Dr. James Flaherty: John did fantastic after his TAVR. His breathing was dramatically improved. I just spoke with him and he just finished 12 weeks of cardiac rehabilitation, and he’s a real success story.

John Gerlits: I would advise patients that were considering the procedure to consider it very seriously, to be confident that it’s been successful with any number of people, and by the fact that I left the hospital two and a half days after the surgery, the recovery period in the hospital is very short. I would definitely recommend Dr. Malaisrie to anybody that’s considering the TAVR procedure.

Keep on tickin’ John!

Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick, Heart Valve Patient Advocate

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

cropela says on February 8th, 2014 at 4:00 pm

I am looking for specific guidelines on rehab and recovery techniques for a small incision through the upper sternum. My mother (86) just had the TAVR at U of Miami and is now here in Port Charlotte FL at a rehab facility and they have no experience with rehab for such a proceedure.

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