At age seven, Bobby Hartley was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Chemotherapy and radiation to his chest cured the cancer but damaged his heart. Nevertheless, for more than four decades, he remained in good health.
Then, in 2011, Hartley was sure he had pneumonia. “I couldn’t breathe,” he said. Instead of lung disease, however, Hartley’s problem turned out to be heart failure due to stenosis: His aortic valve had become thick and couldn't open properly. He needed an aortic valve replacement.
Valves can be replaced through open surgery, and the results are good, said Kevin Harrison, MD, an interventional cardiologist at the Duke. “But about one-third of patients are not candidates for open surgery based on frailty, advanced age, or other problems.”
Hartley fell into the “other problems” category. His aorta had become so rigid and fragile that it could not withstand surgery. At one time, there may not have been another option for saving his life. But Duke was using a new method of valve replacement called TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve replacement). It was an option so new that no one else in the Triangle offered it.