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Medical Center of Central Georgia Offering Revolutionary New Procedure

Medical Center of Central Georgia Offering Revolutionary New Procedure

Non-Surgical valve replacement offered to those who were previously not candidates

MACON, GA (June 4, 2012) – The Medical Center of Central Georgia (MCCG) is pleased to announce that it is now offering transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) with the Edwards SAPIEN transcatheter heart valve for patients suffering from severe, symptomatic native aortic valve stenosis who are not candidates for traditional aortic valve replacement surgery. A multidisciplinary team of physicians at MCCG successfully implanted the first device for Rita Crews on Tuesday May 22, 2012.

“As her cardiologist, I have been following Mrs. Crews for many years because of her aortic valve disease. Because of her age and medical condition, she was thought to be too high of a risk for standard open heart procedure. It was wonderful when MCCG was chosen as one of the institutions that would offer this less invasive option. Our team was able to offer a breakthrough opportunity that will undoubtedly improve her quality of life,” said Dr. Juan Esnard.


Until recently, the prognosis was poor for patients suffering from severe native aortic valve stenosis not eligible for surgery. Without replacement of the aortic valve, this disease is life-threatening, and studies have shown that 50 percent of patients will not survive more than an average of two years after the onset of symptoms.

According to Crews' daughter, Debra Staudt, “Her choices were very limited. We had heard at the first of the year that (TAVR) would be an option for people her age and very sick people who might not tolerate open heart surgery. When (the FDA approval) came about, her doctor called her, and she didn't hesitate. That was the option she wanted.” 

During the minimally invasive procedure, the SAPIEN valve is crimped to the size of a pencil, and placed into the body via a catheter inserted in an artery in the upper thigh. Once it is delivered to the site of the patient's diseased valve, the device is expanded with a balloon and begins to work immediately. The Edwards SAPIEN valve is the only TAVR therapy approved for commercial use in the country and MCCG is one of a select number of sites currently offering this treatment.

“The success of this procedure is testimony to the outstanding skills and expertise of the multidisciplinary team of physicians and personnel who participated in this surgical breakthrough. We can all be proud of their accomplishments,” said Dr. James Cunningham, Chief Medical Officer at MCCG.


The TAVR team included many individuals from various disciplines that relate to cardiovascular surgery and intervention cardiology. Ms. Crews' team included interventional cardiologists Dr. Juan Esnard, Dr. Mark Dorogy and Dr. Wendell Ellis; cardiovascular surgeons Dr. Fady Wanna, Dr. Randy Brown and Dr. Rick Harvey; echocardiographer Dr. Erskine James; vascular surgeon Dr. Maurice Solis; and anesthesiologists Dr. Alrick Brooks and Dr. Ken McDonald.

“The doctors have been fantastic as a group of individuals who got together, and the care she has received has been phenomenal,” Staudt said of her mother's experience. “She's such a spunky little thing and already has plans to get back to water aerobics.”

Although Crews said she is looking forward to exercising, traveling and shopping again, she has one primary goal.

“I'm going to live by myself and take care of myself,” Crews said.