Non-open Heart Valve Replacement for a 67-Year-Old Patient

Ms Nguyen Thi Tham (67 years old, residing in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City) was overwhelmed with fear when she was informed that her heart valve stenosis had reached a severe stage that required surgery for survival

However, thanks to the meticulous explanation and empathetic encouragement from the doctors at FV Hospital, she regained a normal heartbeat using the transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) – a new approach that does not require open-heart surgery and is suitable for elderly patients.

Carrying within her the new heart valve Ms Tuan fondly refers to as her “gift of wisdom.” Ms Tham is moved as she reminisces about her journey of overcoming fear; as an elderly woman in her late sixties having to regain a vigorous heartbeat within her chest.

Ms Tham expresses her gratitude to Ho Minh Tuan, MD, PhD – Head of Cardiology Department – FV Hospital for helping her have a healthy heart rhythm.

To overcome the fear of heart valve replacement surgery, she placed her full trust in her doctor.

At the beginning of 2024, Ms Tham suddenly experienced severe, piercing pain from her back straight to the front, feeling as if her shoulders were being squeezed together. Having lived with aortic stenosis for over 10 years and being closely monitored by the physicians at FV Hospital, she understood that this was a symptom that couldn’t be overlooked.

Following the patient for a month after the episode of pain, Ho Minh Tuan, MD, PhD, Head of FV Hospital Cardiology Department, recognised Ms Tham needed to undergo surgery urgently. Her aortic stenosis had reached a severe stage, posing a risk of heart failure and was causing angina, breathlessness, and potentially fainting or sudden death.

Ho Minh Tuan, MD, PhD, Head of the Cardiology Department at FV Hospital

Replacing heart valves traditionally involved open-heart surgery, a major procedure unsuitable for elderly patients with poor health. Recently, the transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) technique was developed that offers optimal method for patients like Ms Tham – who have multiple underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.

Hearing that surgery was her only chance of survival, Ms Tham hesitated and initially declined treatment. She and her family extensively researched TAVI, watching videos of doctors worldwide performing the procedure, which heightened her anxiety about the potential risks. “My biggest fear is that I won’t wake up after the surgery” she confessed.

Dr Tuan spent considerable time meticulously explaining the TAVI technique to Ms Tham. He assured her of its safety, high success rate (over 99%), and the valve’s lifespan of 10-15 years, meaning patients could enjoy 10-15 years with a healthy heart. Unlike open-heart surgery, which requires 6 months for recovery, patients can resume normal activities within a week after the TAVI method. Encouraged by the doctor, Ms Tham decided to proceed with the procedure having overcoming her fear of surgery.

Ho Minh Tuan, MD, PhD explained, “With careful planning and preparation, the procedure can be very safe. Therefore, thorough preparation and planning are crucial for the success of a TAVI surgery.”

Ho Minh Tuan, MD, PhD performs the TAVI procedure for the patient

“In my body, I carry a gift of wisdom”

Waking up after the surgery, Ms Tham listened to the heartbeat in her chest – gentle beats instead of heavy, tired ones like before. She rejoiced to herself, “I’m alive! It’s truly miraculous!”

Dr Tuan examines patient after the surgery

Looking back at the treatment journey, from fear and refusal of surgery to accepting treatment, feeling calm before the operation, and then the utmost joy upon waking up with a healthy heart, Ms Tham is overwhelmed with gratitude and overflowing emotions. The 67-year-old patient wrote a letter over 3 pages long to thank the entire nursing team for their meticulous care: caring for every drop of urine, every stool of the patient, staying awake every night to take care of the patients. She thanked Dr Thinh for his encouragement before the surgery. And especially Dr Tuan, who has been by her side for over a decade and helped her to have a new, healthy heartbeat.

This method is still new in Vietnam; but through the surgery, the doctor’s skilled hands worked smoothly. The insertion and removal of the valve was gentle and precise, like the doctor himself, fitting perfectly into place, leaving behind a small gift of human intelligence in my heart, by the most advanced surgical method. With all my heart, I want to honour my primary surgeon, Dr Ho Minh Tuan. He has given me a strong new heartbeat, bidding farewell to piercing heartaches, weariness, and gloom.

For more information about the transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) technique, please contact: (028) 54 11 33 33.

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