POCATELLO — Donald Best, 68, of Blackfoot could care less that he made medical history in Idaho last Thursday when he received a new aortic valve manufactured by Medtronic. He’s just happy to be feeling well again.
And Portneuf Medical Center’s chief heart surgeon, Dr. Jacob DeLaRosa, is happy for Best but extremely pleased that his cardiology team did something new that will pave the way for providing help to patients who would not be good candidates for traditional open heart surgery.
“This a a self-deployable valve,” DeLaRosa said about the device made by Medtronic. “The heart is beating as it’s being deployed.”
The exact process is called a trans catheter aortic valve replacement. The surgical team at PMC was able to place the value into Best’s beating heart via access through the main artery in his leg. Once the artificial valve was placed in the correct position, it “blossomed” and filled the area where the old valve was failing.
Aortic valves, which regulate blood flow from the heart into the aorta, are susceptible — typically with age and the onset of cardiovascular disease — to stenosis or failure to open and insufficiency which lets blood to flow in the wrong direction, back into the heart.
Best, who said he had open-heart surgery in California back in 2003, said there was no comparison to that ordeal and what happened to him last Thursday.
“I had congestive heart failure and pneumonia,” Best said about his recent health problems.
Best had been a truck driver for 45 years and had smoked a lot of cigarettes as he logged the miles. Although he had undergone open-heart surgery 11 years ago, he was suffering from shortness of breath and was losing his ability to walk because of a lack of strength.
Monday he was standing in the waiting area of Dr. DeLaRosa’s office and wondering when he could get back to a walking regiment.
“It will be a little while,” DeLaRosa told Best. “I wanted to go home as soon as I woke up,” Best said about his recent surgery. “I feel good.”
DeLaRosa said the self-deployable aortic valve developed by Medtronic opens the door for other people with respiratory issues to get relief from stenosis who would not be good candidates for full blown open-heart surgery where the heart has to be stopped to replace a valve.
“This valve was designed specifically for someone with bad lungs,” DeLaRosa said. “It’s great technology, and it’s great for the people of Southeast Idaho.”
Best, who has been married to his wife Linda for 35 years, is one of them. Monday afternoon he gave Linda a hug and a kiss right after he gave Dr. DeLaRosa a big handshake.
“It isn’t me,” Dr. DeLaRosa said. “This was done as a team.”
Along with DeLaRosa, Dr. Fernando Grigera, Dr. Julio Vasquez and Dr. Juan Leon performed the first implantation of the Medtronic CoreValve Transcatheter Aortic Valve Prosthesis in Idaho.
Dr. Grigera, director of the cath lab at PMC, said, “With this new technology, there is no reason the people of Pocatello, Blackfoot, Idaho Falls, and all of Southeast Idaho have to travel hundreds of miles away to receive the best care — and the most up-to-date technology.”