WICHITA, Kan. — A surgical team at Ascension Via Christi-St. Francis has performed a first-of-its-kind heart valve replacement procedure.

The 65-year-old woman from Hutchinson is the first person in the world to undergo a Transcatheter Mitral Valve Replacement to treat her particular heart condition.

“My next step was gonna be hospice,” Terri Lohmeyer said. “I couldn’t breathe…it was just too far to walk, even to go to a car.”

Her symptoms were so severe, Lohmeyer didn’t qualify for open-heart surgery.

“The test and everything—it came back and said, ‘Yeah, your mitral valve is pretty well gone’,” Lohmeyer said.

Dominic Henry, RN, with patient Terri Lohmeyer, November 2022 (Courtesy Ascension Via Christi)

Lohmeyer’s procedure addressed her severe mitral stenosis, a narrowing of the heart valve, and mitral valve regurgitation, a condition where blood flows backward through the valve.

The procedure used Abbott Laboratories’ newest Cephea TMVR System.

Ascension Via Christi St. Francis is one of only five centers worldwide selected to participate in a feasibility study of the minimally invasive mitral valve replacement system.

“For this unique application of the system, our team had to petition the Food and Drug Administration for special authorization under its compassionate/humanitarian protocol,” says interventional cardiologist Bassem Chehab, MD, who along with cardiothoracic surgeon Brett Grizzell, MD, and cardiologists Aziz Maksoud, MD and Gurav Tyagi, MD, leads the Structural Heart team at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis. The FDA approved the request within 24 hours.

“I cried all night…I cried all night I was so happy,” Lohmeyer said.

According to the American Heart Association Journal of Circulation: Cardiovascular Interventions, the first of several predecessors to this procedure, was performed in France on an 83-year-old woman with severe congestive heart failure who was not a candidate for other heart valve replacement procedures or treatments.

According to the paper, the patient saw marked improvement within two weeks, and after 28 weeks, the symptoms of her congestive heart failure were gone. The procedure involves using a catheter to thread the replacement valve up through the aorta and placing the replacement valve over the existing one.

Prior to the procedure, Lohmeyer says she would become fatigued and out of breath after taking only a few steps despite being on chronic oxygen therapy. But within two days of her procedure, she no longer required oxygen and was discharged five days after the procedure.

“Being allowed to apply this pioneering technology in a unique way to benefit Terri was a privilege,” says Dr. Chehab.

The hospital says that the procedure is just one of a number of leading-edge minimally invasive valve repair and replacement procedures being performed at St. Francis.

Over the past decade, the team has performed approximately 2,500 procedures in its hybrid operating room. Ascension Via Christi says that because of the team’s consistent and predictable outcomes, the team is now routinely selected to participate in elite clinical studies of new therapies and devices being developed to treat patients.

Medical experts anticipate this kind of procedure will not be commercially available until five to ten years from now.

For more information on Ascension Via Christi cardiology care or to find a doctor, visit ascension.org/viachristiheart.

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