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Re-Energized: Heart Valve Restores Active Lifestyle

Wednesday, September 06, 2017 7:53 AM

Good luck in trying to keep up with Rita Favia. She is on the go—constantly! From running errands to socializing, her days are full including a summer stint as lifeguard at her condominium pool.


“I think I’m the world’s oldest lifeguard,” said the independent and vivacious 82-year-old from west suburban Addison.

Health Challenge
But last fall, Favia’s seemingly endless energy declined quickly. A replacement valve that had been implanted in her heart in 2004 to treat mitral regurgitation, began to leak. She could barely walk down a hallway without holding onto the wall and would gasp for breath with any exertion.

With her condition deteriorating, Favia was referred by her neighborhood hospital to NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute –some 30 miles from home—for heart valve repair expertise that would prove to be life changing. In November, when she first met Interventional Cardiologist Mayra Guerrero, MD, Favia was so weak she came to the hospital in a wheelchair.

“Typically, pig valves like the one used to treat Rita’s condition, deteriorate over 10 to 15 years and need to be replaced,” explained Dr. Guerrero, who performed the world’s first transcatheter mitral valve replacement (TMVR) on a patient’s native—or original—valve without a surgical incision or heart-lung machine support. “Rita came to us because she wasn’t a good candidate for open-heart surgery due to her high risk for complication,” added Dr. Guerrero, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

Leading-Edge Alternative
Favia was eligible for a nonsurgical option available at NorthShore to replace her heart valve through a clinical trial known as MITRAL (Mitral Implantation of TRAnscatheter vaLves). Dr. Guerrero is the national Principal Investigator of MITRAL, which evaluates the safety and effectiveness of TMVR in individuals with malfunction of their original heart valve or a failed surgical valve.

During the minimally invasive procedure, an artificial valve is inserted through the groin using a thin tube. In Favia’s case, the new valve was placed within the existing pig valve to restore her normal heart function. The impact was immediate.

I can’t say enough about my experience at NorthShore,” said Favia. “I felt better right away and was able to walk up four flights of stairs after only one week. Now, I’m back to my old self again.”

“What makes NorthShore unique is our tremendous experience as a leader in advancing the latest cardiac technologies and treatments through clinical trials,” added Dr. Guerrero, who teaches other physicians the procedure at leading academic medical centers including Mayo Clinic and Columbia University in New York.