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April 5, 2016

Replacement Aortic Valve Delivered Via Catheter at ThedaCare in Appleton

Patients Benefit From Minimally Invasive Procedure  

ThedaCare Cardiovascular Care is the first heart program in the Fox Valley to offer a new option for patients to treat the underlying cause of aortic valve disease, not just the symptoms. The minimally invasive surgery repairs a person’s diseased aortic valve without removing the old damaged valve; rather, it wedges a replacement valve into the aortic valve’s place. The collapsible replacement valve is delivered via a catheter, similar to the placement of a stent.  

This transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) often benefits patients with heart disease who experience shortness of breath, chronic fatigue, and multiple trips to the emergency department. They are screened and treated through a collaborative effort of cardiologists, anesthesiologists, surgeons, and other medical professionals.  

According to Dr. Nick Augelli, a cardiothoracic surgeon with ThedaCare Cardiovascular Care, TAVR procedure is a game-changer for patients who would otherwise die from valve disease. “It’s a great alternative for a frail elderly person with valve disease who would normally not be considered strong enough to withstand open heart surgery. They can be treated here, close to home, and they generally go home in just 48 hours and recover remarkably well,” he said.  

The TAVR procedure is performed in the new hybrid OR at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton, a marriage of high-end imaging normally only found in a catheterization lab with a fully functional operating room, along with the newly created structural heart team, which includes a cardiologist, heart surgeon, ICU team and others. “It’s the best of both worlds,” said Dr. Cherian Varghese, an interventional cardiologist with ThedaCare Cardiovascular Care “The hybrid OR affords us premium imaging in the safest environment possible. If the situation changes, we can convert to an open operative procedure in the same room.”  

Varghese was trained in the TAVR procedure at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, one of the first sites in the country to offer the new heart valve replacement for patients too sick to undergo traditional open heart surgery to correct severe aortic stenosis.

Harold Gensler, 88, of Appleton, was increasingly suffering from shortness of breath and heart arrhythmia. While up north at his cottage last November, his breathing got so bad that he ended up in the emergency room, where he started a 3-month process to recover his health enough to undergo the TAVR on February 8. “They got me back in shape enough to get the new valve in,” he said.  

Just over a month after his successful aortic valve replacement, Gensler is back driving, attending church, and looking forward to splitting wood back at the cottage. He participates in cardiac rehabilitation to rebuild his muscles and regain some of the 20 pounds he lost during the worst of his illness.  

For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 7,000 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 34 clinics in 14 counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service. For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.