Polish-American patient is first to receive nonsurgical heart valve replacement at Loyola

News Archive November 09, 2011

Polish-American patient is first to receive nonsurgical heart valve replacement at Loyola

Polish-American patient is first to receive nonsurgical heart valve replacement at Loyola
During a catheter-based procedure, the patient is given a new artificial heart valve.
Her doctor is one of the nation's most prominent Polish-American physicians

Stanislawa Roszko's heart-valve disease was so severe that just walking up a few steps left her gasping for air. And because she couldn't breathe lying down, she had to sleep in a chair.

But Roszko said her breathing is back to normal since Loyola University Hospital physicians replaced her diseased aortic valve in a catheter procedure as part of a clinical trial.

"I feel good," said Roszko, who came to Chicago from Poland in 1979.

Roszko, 75, was the first clinical trial patient at Loyola to receive the nonsurgical heart valve replacement. The multi-center trial is evaluating an alternative to traditional open-heart surgery for patients who have diseased aortic valves.

The catheter-based technology is being tested on patients with severe aortic stenosis. The condition occurs when the heart's aortic valve is narrowed, restricting blood flow from the heart to the body. The valve doesn't open properly, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood. Aortic stenosis can lead to heart failure and death. Shortness of breath is one of the main symptoms. About 100,000 people in the United States have this condition.

Currently in the United States, the standard treatment is to replace the aortic valve through open-heart surgery. The clinical trial will evaluate an alternative procedure, in which an artificial valve is delivered and deployed with a catheter (thin tube). The catheter is inserted into an artery in the groin and guided up to the heart. Once in place, the artificial valve takes over the function of the diseased valve, ensuring that oxygen-rich blood flows into the aorta, the body's main artery.

Loyola is among a select group of 40 hospitals participating in the Medtronic CoreValve® U.S. Clinical Trial. Loyola is the only site in the Chicago area and one of the few in the Midwest.

Principal investigators for the Loyola site are Ferdinand Leya, MD, professor of medicine and director of Interventional Cardiology, and Mamdouh Bakhos, MD, professor and chair of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

"If proven safe and effective, this technology could be the next great advance in minimally invasive treatment of patients with heart disease," Leya said.

Leya is one of the nation’s leading cardiologists. He sees patients at the Loyola Center for Health and Vascular Medicine at Park Ridge and Loyola's Center for Heart and Vascular Medicine in Maywood. Many of his patients are Polish.

Leya was born 60 miles south of Krakow. He received his first communion from the archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, who later became Pope John Paul II. Leya graduated summa cum laude both from high school and from Jagiellonian University in Krakow, where he received his medical degree in 1977.

Leya has performed more than 10,000 diagnostic cardiac catheterizations and more than 5,000 coronary angioplasties. Chicago magazine has named him among the top interventional cardiologists in metropolitan Chicago. He is a board member of the American Heart Association, and received the Polish-American heritage award from the Polish American Congress.

The catheter-based heart valve has been implanted in more than 15,000 patients in 40 countries. In the United States, the device is considered investigational and is available only in a clinical trial.

The U.S. clinical trial will enroll more than 1,300 patients. It will be a collaborative effort by cardiac surgeons and interventional cardiologists. Patients will be enrolled in a treatment group based on clinical and surgical risk. Those who can tolerate surgery will be randomly assigned to receive either traditional open-heart valve replacement or valve replacement deployed by a catheter. All patients who are deemed inoperable will be assigned to receive the catheter procedure.

Roszko was the first Loyola patient assigned to undergo the catheter procedure. She said that before the treatment, she could not shop or even walk two blocks to church. She experienced symptoms for about three years before coming to Leya.

"Dr. Leya told me, 'I will help you,'" she said.

She is very happy with the outcome. "I have no pain from the procedure, and no more shortness of breath," she said.

She appreciated being able to talk to Leya in Polish. "He's straightforward, and very nice," she said. "He has a good heart."

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Jim Ritter

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