Heart valve day cases increased as part of COVID-19 response

Posted on in Services

Patient Donald Leather with the TAVI team

Day case patient Donald Leather with James Cook TAVI team. (Left to right: Gemma McCalmont, Omar Aldalati, Donald Leather, Seth Vijayan and Douglas Muir)

When you are told you need a new heart valve you could be forgiven for assuming this means a long hospital stay.

But throughout the COVID-19 pandemic many patients at The James Cook University Hospital have had their heart valve replaced and then gone home again the same day.

Their speedy recovery has been made possible thanks to an advanced procedure called TAVI (transcatheter aortic valve implantation) which avoids the need for open heart surgery.

TAVI patients are fitted with new heart valves using advanced imaging technology and a tube (catheter) which is inserted through a small cut in their groin or chest so there is no need to stop the heart.

Most patients are up and about within a few hours of the procedure and only need to spend one night in hospital.

But for those who meet certain safety criteria they can now return home the same day and this has been particularly popular with patients during the pandemic.

Patients who have a pacemaker or who have normal heart conduction before and after the procedure can now be allowed home the same day if they are fit and well.

More than 150 planned TAVI procedures have been carried out at James Cook since the start of the pandemic with as many as one in ten of these patients going home the same day.

“We really expanded our day case TAVI programme during the COVID pandemic,” said Gemma McCalmont, structural heart specialist nurse.

“Previously this option was only open to patients who had a pacemaker and were having a certain type of valve fitted.

“But we now have the experience and knowledge to safely offer day case TAVI to patients who have normal heart conduction and for all the types of heart valve that we use.

“We are leading the way with this nationally and it was of particular relevance during the peak of the pandemic as it led to shorter hospital stays which in turn helped to reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infection.”