Sunshine Coast’s Heart HQ team are on a mission to prevent one of the most common cardiac conditions – one many people don’t realise is among the easiest to treat.
Recent statistics have revealed aortic stenosis (AS) is common among the ageing population of Australia and without timely intervention those impacted could die within two years of developing symptoms.
Heart HQ structural heart specialist Dr Stuart Butterly says that while AS is one of the most common and most serious heart problems, what many don’t know is it’s also very treatable.
“If you’ve been diagnosed with AS it means your aortic valve into your heart has narrowed and does not work properly, therefore you may experience symptoms such as breathlessness or tightness in your chest,” he says.
“Traditionally, open-heart surgery has been the main treatment option for AS, however what we’re finding is that many people aren’t aware of a far less invasive alternative known as the transcatheter aortic valve implant (TAVI), which is essentially a ‘keyhole’ procedure.”
Past patient and Sunshine Coast local Daphne Keough, 81, is one of 250 people who have been treated by the team of structural heart specialists at Heart HQ and who are reaping the benefits of the TAVI procedure.
“Since having my surgery I feel amazing, it has truly been life-changing and what’s even better was being able to have the procedure done here on the Sunshine Coast,” she says.
“I’d had to have open-heart surgery many years ago and it took me a very long time to bounce back, but after the TAVI procedure I woke up like a new person.”
As the country’s population continues to age, Dr Butterly says his best advice to the elderly is to get a second opinion when it comes to treating issues relating to your heart.
“Currently, there are approximately 56,000 patients in Australia who will die from aortic valve disease prior to getting aortic valve therapy – this in an unacceptably high number,” he says.
“Many of the patients who we see have wound up at our door because they have been told there’s no treatment available to them or they simply wouldn’t be suitable to operate on, and for the most part that’s just simply not the case any more.
“The risks are significantly reduced with this type of surgery, meaning we can operate on most patients; the recovery time is also significantly reduced with most patients having been out of hospital the day after their procedure.”
The team of Structural Heart Specialists at Heart HQ, led by Dr Butterly and Dr Peter Larsen, have treated patients with the TAVI procedure from as far south as Central New South Wales, all the way up to North Queensland.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do to raise the awareness of the disease, but also raise the awareness of how available therapy is and how relatively safe and effective the therapy is,” Dr Larsen said.
Ms Keough says that since her surgery she’s been able to undertake all her household chores, including vacuuming and mowing, as well as reconnect with her love for dancing.
“I love dancing, it’s a huge part of my life. I usually spend around four hours dancing, four to five times a week,” she says.
“I do line dancing, rock and roll and jive classes.
“I live on my own and I don’t have any family left so I rely on my dancing to keep me young and connected with my community.”