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Health First Valve Clinic performs

New surgical option brings high-risk patients valid alternative to open-heart surgery

ROCKLEDGE, Fla. (Aug. 6, 2015) – The Health First Valve Clinic team successfully completed its first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) surgery in Brevard in mid-July. This new minimally invasive procedure is designed specifically for critically ill patients suffering from aortic stenosis (AS) who are at very high risk for traditional open-heart aortic valve replacement (AVR) surgery. The first patient to undergo TAVR surgery, Frederick Blackman, a 93-year-old resident of Palm Bay, is now recuperating at home after a three-day stay in the Heart and Vascular Center at Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center.

“Health First is proud to be able to provide this state-of-the-art, life-saving procedure right here in Brevard County,” said Bill Calhoun, Health First Community Hospitals President and Senior Executive for Cardiovascular Services. “Previously patients with this dangerous heart valve condition had to travel across the state for treatment. Now they can undergo this procedure to greatly improve their quality of life close to their own home.”

A less invasive procedure than open-heart surgery, the TAVR uses a catheter to replace the function of the diseased heart valve instead of opening up the chest and completely removing the diseased valve.

By adding the TAVR surgical component, the Health First Valve Clinic is now the only comprehensive clinic on the Space Coast and Treasure Coast to offer the full range of surgical options for valve replacement. The Health First Valve Clinic team has extensive expertise and experience in cardiothoracic surgery and interventional cardiology.

“Severe, symptomatic aortic stenosis, like Mr. Blackman presented with, is a life-threatening condition that progresses toward heart failure or sudden death,” said Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Matthew Campbell, a founding member of the Health First Valve Clinic. “TAVR is new technology allowing sicker patients to overcome those odds.”

To qualify for the TAVR option, Medicare and the FDA require a patient be deemed at high risk or inoperable by two surgeons. Health First Valve Clinic colleagues and Interventional Cardiologists Dr. Cesar Jara and Dr. Norberto Schechtmann, and Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Gregory Simmons evaluated Mr. Blackman and recommended the TAVR option.

“This new valve replacement surgery has had an amazing journey in terms of changing the cardiovascular therapies we can now offer,” Dr. Cesar Jara said. “The progress of the technology is remarkable since Professor Alain Cribier, MD, performed the first procedure in 2002 in France. The TAVR received FDA approval in November 2011 for use in inoperable patients and in October 2012 for use in patients at high surgical risk.”

“I had aortic stenosis for a year and a half,” said Mr. Blackman. “It made me very tired and I had no energy. When Dr. Campbell told me about the new TAVR surgery, my family and I thought it was a good option for me. I didn’t hesitate to be the first TAVR patient as I have great confidence in his surgical expertise.”

The TAVR surgery has provided a unique opportunity for a large team to work closely together for the good of the patient.

“By having a Cardiac Surgeon, an Interventional Cardiologist and an Anesthesiologist working along side each other while performing the TAVR in the OR, the patient has access to the best expertise and training from all cardiovascular therapies combined," Dr. Jara said. “The team includes many other health professionals, such as radiologists, nurses, technicians, the Cath Lab and OR teams. This commitment of resources and training will greatly benefit the aging population on the Space and Treasure coasts.”

The two-year-old Health First Valve Clinic is an integral component of Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center’s Heart and Vascular Center, which has been the county’s volume and experience leader in both CT surgery and interventional cardiology.

In terms of recovery from the TAVR surgery, Mr. Blackman and his physicians are very pleased with his progress. “The recovery has been amazing,” Mr. Blackman said. “I’m looking forward to returning to my exercise program and going grocery shopping with my wife.”

“Having the TAVR surgical option available in Brevard brings hope to the many patients who are suffering from aortic stenosis and need a valve replacement, but cannot tolerate open-heart surgery,” Dr. Campbell said. “Since Mr. Blackman's surgery, we have successfully performed two more TAVR procedures with excellent outcomes.”

For more information about the Health First Valve Clinic and the various valve therapies, from minimally invasive repairs to TAVR, call the Valve Clinic at 321-434-VALVE (8258).

About Health First

Founded in 1995, Health First is Central Florida’s only fully integrated delivery network (IDN) and employs more than 8,000 associates. The integrator of its IDN is Health First Health Plans offering a wide variety of health insurance options across Central Florida. In addition, it operates four hospitals (Health First’s Cape Canaveral Hospital, Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center, Health First’s Palm Bay Hospital and Health First’s Viera Hospital) and is home to Brevard County’s only Trauma Center. Health First Medical Group is the largest multi-specialty physician group on the Space Coast. Health First also offers numerous outpatient and wellness services, including Health First Aging Services, four Health First Pro-Health & Fitness Centers and Home and Hospice care. Visit for more information.