Together: Husband and Wife Have Same Aortic Valve Replacement

May 08, 2013


DETROIT – Doctors at Henry Ford Hospital have replaced heart valves in a St. Clair Shores couple – the first couple in the U.S. to have the same procedure.

“We do everything together,” says Betty Fennell, 86. “We both had cancer in the ‘80s, and we both had heart bypass surgery in 2000.”

Betty Fennell had a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) in August, and her husband John had the same procedure last week.

“Neither of them were candidates to have open-heart surgery again, which both had undergone in 2000,” says Mayra Guerrero, M.D., the lead cardiologist on the multi-specialty team who did both procedures.

TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for patients with severe narrowing of the aortic heart valve who cannot undergo open-heart surgery. Doctors use a catheter to thread the replacement valve from a blood vessel in the leg to the heart’s failing aortic valve, and replace it with a new artificial valve. Before the availability of TAVR, these patients had few treatment options.

Team members for the procedure included specialists in interventional cardiology, cardiac surgery, advanced cardiac imaging, vascular surgery, and cardiac anesthesia.

Retired carpenter John Fennell, 89, had a valvuloplasty, which opens a heart valve with a balloon through a catheter, a few days before his TAVR procedure.

“John Fennell was having great difficulty walking,” adds Dr. Guerrero. “He would take a few steps and faint. His heart condition did not allow enough blood flow to his brain. It was imperative for him to have the valvuloplasty to stabilize his condition until he was ready for the TAVR procedure.”

“Before I had the TAVR procedure, everything was an effort to do,” says Betty Fennell. “I couldn’t walk very far and it was hard to breathe. After my procedure, I was home in three days and I’m driving again.”

For more information on heart valve replacement, or an appointment, call (313) 916-1534.