patient portrait smiling

83-year-old Lake Elsinore resident, Helen Monteleone, smiles and celebrates at TAVR patient luncheon two weeks after receiving the life-saving procedure.

The TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve replacement) team at Loma Linda University Medical Center – Murrieta performed its 100th procedure on Monday, December 30, nearly a year after launching the program and giving the gift of time to Lake Elsinore resident Helen Monteleone.

Monteleone had experienced shortness of breath for over 10 years and had a diagnosed heart murmur, but that had not stopped her from maintaining an active lifestyle, including regular workouts at her gym. The active 83-year-old was at her annual exam in June 2019 when she received news that her moderate condition was now critical — meaning she could have a heart attack, stroke or even die.

Knowing she needed to act quickly, Monteleone sought to find a cardiologist who could provide her the treatment she needed to have more years with her great-grandchildren. This would bring her to Niraj Parekh, MD, a cardiologist and director of cath lab and structural heart interventions at Loma Linda University Medical Center – Murrieta, who performed the TAVR procedure on Monteleone.

“I told Dr. Parekh, ‘Listen, I have these two great-grandbabies and I need to be living a few more years to be with them,’” Monteleone said. “So, I asked if TAVR would help with that, and he was sure it would. After, I felt so positive that everything was going to be OK.”

Thanks to the program’s availability in the community, Monteleone was one of over 100 patients who have been able to have a second chance at life after receiving this life-saving procedure. Monteleone was released within a day of her surgery and was able to return to her gym routine within two weeks of her surgery. She is most looking forward to her trip to Humboldt, California in April where she will celebrate her 62nd wedding anniversary and get to spend time with her great-grandchildren. 

Parekh said Monteleone and the other 100 patients highlight the positive impact the less-invasive option is having on South West Riverside communities.

“When we started offering this procedure last year, the area was underserved for cardiology and structural heart disease,” Parekh said. “It’s amazing to see that in a year we have been able to improve the quality of life for over 100 people. In the spirit of Loma Linda University Health’s mission — to make man whole — we are excited to continue growing our options for advanced cardiology care to our community.”

TAVR is an alternative procedure to open heart surgery that treats aortic stenosis — a heart valve disease that causes reduced blood flow through the aortic valve. The disease causes patients to suffer from chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath and fatigue when doing simple tasks like walking a few feet. The less-invasive procedure involves having an interventional cardiologist and a cardiothoracic surgeon puncture an artery in the leg. Through this small puncture, the team implants a new valve on a balloon that is slender enough to fit in the artery. The cardiologist then advances this valve through a sheath to replace the diseased valve. 

The less-invasive procedure is performed under conscious sedation rather than general anesthesia, takes less than an hour and allows patients to go home the next day. In August of 2019, the FDA approved TAVR for low-risk patients, increasing the number of heart patients who qualify for this life-saving treatment.

On January 17, 2020, the TAVR team, medical staff, former patients and family members gathered for a reunion luncheon at the hospital to celebrate the 100th milestone mark. The event included sharing patient stories, physician recognition and giveaways. 

To learn more about TAVR and heart care services at Loma Linda University Medical Center-Murrieta, visit their Heart Care website or call 951-290-4000.