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Innovative heart procedure gives patient new lease on life

Posted at 6:16 PM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 22:19:19-04

Medical technology is advancing constantly nowadays, often in ways that completely change lives.

For Debbie Krmpotich, a single innovative heart treatment has made a bigger difference than decades of treatments.

Krmpotich looks good and feels great today at the age of 66, but at as a young girl she battled some big health issues.

“When I was a child, I had strep throat that turned into rheumatic fever in 1968.”

Then, in 1972, doctors found a heart murmur. 46 years later an echocardiogram revealed her mitral valve was not working.

“They determined I needed to have open heart surgery in 2018,” said Krmpotich.

After open heart surgery and 14 days in the hospital, Debbie thought her troubles were over…until three years later.

“In June of this year I had an echocardiogram and they determined that my aorta heart valve as totally gone.”

After the discovery, Debbie was scheduled for a breakthrough procedure called TAVR, which stands for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement.

It’s a procedure that is used to treat a condition called aortic stenosis.

“That valve becomes calcified and immobile,” says Dr. Edward Miner, an interventional cardiologist with Intermountain Healthcare.

Dr. Miner says the surgery is so much easier on the patient, with little downtime.

“A tube is inserted through one of the arteries in the body, advanced to the diseased aortic valve, and a new valve can be implemented without surgery.” And this procedure is lifesaving.

“If it’s untreated it’s fatal. When it’s treated, which it is with very high success rates, people go back to the life expectancy they would have for someone at that age without the condition,” says Miner.

Doctors at the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute have performed more than 2,021 TAVR procedures since 2009, more than any other Utah hospital, and helped pioneer the technology in studies when it was initially developed.

For Debbie, she was up and walking around one day after her TAVR procedure, and just one-month post-op she feels like she has a new lease on life.

“I’m already feeling so much better. It’s unbelievable.”