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Kansas woman undergoes first-of-its-kind heart surgery

WICHITA, Kan. – A surgical team at Ascension Via Christi-St. Francis performed a unique heart valve replacement procedure.

The 65-year-old woman from Hutchinson is the first person in the world to undergo a transcatheter mitral valve replacement to treat her specific heart condition.

“My next step was a hospice,” said Terri Lohmeyer. “I couldn’t breathe … it was just too far to walk, even to a car.”

Her symptoms were so severe that Lohmeyer did not qualify for open-heart surgery.

“The test and everything — it came back and said, ‘Yeah, your mitral valve is pretty bad,'” Lohmeyer said.

Dominic Henry, RN, with patient Terri Lohmeyer, November 2022 (courtesy of Ascension Via Christi)

Lohmeyer’s procedure addressed her severe mitral stenosis, a narrowing of the heart valve, and mitral valve regurgitation, a condition where blood flows back through the valve.

The procedure used the latest Cephea TMVR system from Abbott Laboratories.

Ascension Via Christi St. Francis is one of only five centers worldwide selected to participate in a minimally invasive mitral valve replacement feasibility study.

“For this unique application of the system, our team had to apply for special permission from the Food and Drug Administration under their compassionate/humanitarian protocol,” said interventional cardiologist Bassem Chehab, MD, who along with cardiothoracic surgeon Brett Grizzell, MD , and cardiologists Aziz Maksoud, MD and Gurav Tyagi, MD, lead the Structural Heart Team at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis. The FDA approved the application within 24 hours.

“I cried all night … I cried all night, I was so happy,” Lohmeyer said.

According to the American Heart Association Journal of Circulation: Cardiovascular Interventions, the first of several predecessors to this procedure, was performed in France on an 83-year-old woman with severe congestive heart failure who was not eligible for other heart valve replacement procedures or treatments.

According to the newspaper, the patient saw significant improvement within two weeks, and by 28 weeks the symptoms of her congestive heart failure had disappeared. The procedure involves using a catheter to thread the replacement valve through the aorta and place the replacement valve over the existing one.

Before the procedure, Lohmeyer said she was tired and out of breath after just a few steps, despite chronic oxygen therapy. But within two days of her procedure, she stopped requiring oxygen and was discharged five days after the procedure.

“It has been a privilege to be able to apply this breakthrough technology in a unique way to the benefit of Terri,” said Dr. Chehab.

The hospital says the procedure is just one of several state-of-the-art, minimally invasive valve repair and replacement procedures performed at St. Francis.

Over the past decade, the team has performed approximately 2,500 procedures in its hybrid operating room. Ascension Via Christi says that because of the team’s consistent and predictable results, the team is now routinely selected to participate in elite clinical trials of new therapies and devices being developed to treat patients.

Doctors assume that such a method will only be commercially available in five to ten years.

For more information on Ascension Via Christi cardiac care or to find a physician, visit ascension.org/viachristiheart.

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