TAVR restores Milt’s heart function so he can spend more time with his family

After years of living with aortic stenosis, Milt Anderson of Davenport, Iowa, needed to have the aortic valve in his heart replaced. At 82, he felt fine, but tests showed his heart wasn’t performing as well as it should.

He scheduled a consultation with interventional cardiologist Sidakpal Panaich, MBBS, at the University of Iowa Heart and Vascular Center. Panaich recommended transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a procedure that replaces the aortic valve without the need for open-heart surgery. It’s much less taxing on the patient, and recovery is quicker.

Less than a month before his procedure, however, Milt was rushed to a nearby hospital with a life-threatening infection. When his health continued to deteriorate, he was transferred from his local hospital to UI Hospitals & Clinics, where a multispecialty team of caregivers restored his health. Then Panaich replaced his aortic valve as planned.

Milt and Nancy Andersen standing on a golf course
Milt’s successful TAVR procedure has him back on the golf course, including three rounds in one week with his wife, Nancy, this past September.

“My family doctor says it was amazing that I survived this infection, and my children and I think it was because of the care I received at UI,” Milt says. “They brought me back to good health, I was able to get my new valve, and I feel great.”

A second opinion for severe aortic stenosis care

Aortic stenosis is the stiffening of the aortic valve, which is the valve that controls blood flow leaving the heart through the aorta. Aortic stenosis forces the heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. This can eventually lead to heart failure.

Because Milt didn’t have fatigue, shortness of breath, or other symptoms associated with severe aortic stenosis, he only needed periodic check-ups to monitor whether his heart muscle was still strong. That changed in August 2020, when a routine ultrasound and EKG showed his condition had worsened.

“Even though my tests indicated it was time to replace the valve, my former cardiologist said we could continue to wait since I was still asymptomatic,” Milt says. “This concerned me, so I did some online research. I found that within the region, UI has the most experience with heart valve disease and the latest treatments.”

Iowa’s TAVR experts

In a TAVR procedure, the interventional cardiologist mounts a new valve on a tiny mesh tube that is advanced through the blood vessels, usually starting from an artery in the thigh. The tube is guided through the blood vessels until it reaches the heart, where the new valve is fitted tightly inside the diseased valve.

“Often, we recommend that patients wait until they have symptoms to undergo surgery or a TAVR procedure,” Panaich says. “But in Milt’s case, it was important to move forward with a valve replacement. We had evidence his heart wasn’t doing well, which increased his risk of heart attack and other complications.”

My family doctor says it was amazing that I survived this infection, and my children and I think it was because of the care I received at UI. They brought me back to good health, I was able to get my new valve, and I feel great.

— Milt Anderson

The first TAVR procedure in Iowa was performed at the UI Heart and Vascular Center, which is also the only site in the state conducting research to make the procedure even more effective for more people.

Panaich is participating in a research study to determine whether people like Milt—who have severe aortic stenosis without symptoms—are better off having their valve replaced early instead of taking a wait-and-see approach.

An unexpected journey with a remarkable outcome

Milt doesn’t remember the early part of his hospital stay in those weeks leading up to his TAVR procedure. He knows he was on a ventilator while battling sepsis and kidney failure. And he understands that a team of medical professionals worked together to save his life.

Now he’s back to his everyday life, including golf, yard work, and walking nearly two miles a day. He also provides around-the-clock care to his wife, who has dementia.

“Dr. Panaich and my nurses, including Alyssa Speight and Angela Kipp, were exceptional,” Milt says. “Everyone was caring and generous with their time. With their exceptional talent and vast experience, along with the support and prayers from family, friends, and our church, I am leading a very active and productive life.”

Davenport, Iowa