Freeman News

Freeman First and Only Local Hospital to Perform TAVR Procedure

June 27, 2017

Minimally invasive procedure is an alternative to open heart surgery.

Cardiothoracic surgeons and cardiologists at Freeman Heart & Vascular Institute have successfully performed the first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedures in the area. The minimally invasive technique gives hope to patients who suffer from severe aortic stenosis, but who are not ideal candidates for a complex open heart surgery.

“Freeman Health System is committed to providing the most innovative medical treatments,” said Paula F. Baker, Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer. “Patients who, in the past, were not eligible for open heart surgery now have a treatment option that extends and improves their quality of life.”

Performed in a state-of-the-art hybrid operating room, the TAVR procedure enables the placement of a stent-based tissue aortic heart valve into the body via a catheter inserted through the groin and threaded up to the heart through the arteries. By combining minimally invasive techniques with the latest catheter technologies, TAVR is a non-surgical option that is less invasive than conventional surgery and is done while the heart remains pumping, eliminating the need for a heart-lung machine.

"One of the most important aspects of the TAVR procedure is the teamwork across medical disciplines," said Dr. Raymond Vetsch, Freeman Heart & Vascular Institute Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgeon. "We are together at the operating table taking different roles in guiding, placing and deploying the replacement valve."

Aortic stenosis is a common heart problem caused by a narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve due to excessive calcium deposited on the valve leaflets. As the problem worsens, the heart must work harder to pump blood through the body, potentially leading to heart failure and increased risk of sudden cardiac death.

"In its severe form, aortic stenosis can be extremely limiting for a patient to the point of hindering his or her ability to perform daily activities such as walking short distances or climbing stairs," said Dr. John Cox, Freeman Heart & Vascular Institute Cardiologist. "Ultimately, our goal is to help patients regain function and return to the activities they once enjoyed."

TAVR is considered an effective option to improve quality of life for many patients who are unable to tolerate a lengthy open heart surgery. This procedure is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for those with symptoms of aortic stenosis who are considered intermediate or high risk with other medical conditions for standard valve replacement surgery.

“This is a truly game-changer for those suffering from aortic stenosis,” said Dr. John Nicholas, Freeman Heart & Vascular Institute Cardiologist. “Patients who previously had an open heart procedure, or have additional health issues complicating their condition, are often not eligible for an open heart surgery. Because TAVR is minimally invasive, patients recover much more quickly.”

According to the American Heart Association®, approximately 1.5 million Americans suffer from aortic stenosis. An estimated 250,000 of those individuals live with severe aortic stenosis. Without an aortic valve replacement, as many as 50 percent of patients with severe aortic stenosis will not survive more than an average of two years after the onset of symptoms.

About Freeman Health System
Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2017, Freeman earned dozens of individual awards for medical excellence and patient safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. U.S. News & World Report ranked Freeman one of the top Hospitals in Southwest Missouri more than five years in a row, and the Leapfrog Group awarded Freeman the highest grade possible in the Spring 2017 Hospital Patient Safety Score. With more than 300 physicians on staff representing more than 60 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart and vascular care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit, or follow Freeman at Follow Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Baker at