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Dr. Stan Thornton performs 50th outpatient heart valve replacement at Thomas Hospital

  • Category: News
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Martha Davidson

On Wednesday, March 30, Dr. Stan Thornton of Cardiology Associates, assisted by Dr. Trey Pluscht of Cardio-Thoracic and Vascular Surgical Associates, will perform the 50th TAVR (Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement) procedure at Thomas Hospital. Since 2017, Dr. Thornton has performed more than 225 TAVR procedures at Infirmary Health facilities. 

Traditionally, open-heart surgery is performed to replace a faulty valve; however, TAVR is a minimally-invasive option with little downtime. A new heart valve, handmade from the tissue from a cow’s heart, is placed through a catheter and guided to the aortic valve through a main artery such as the femoral artery via the groin. Once in place, the collapsed valve is placed inside the old valve and expanded in the patient’s own aortic valve while the heart is beating. These valves are very strong, durable and safe. The new valve begins working immediately and most patients experience immediate relief.

Stan Thornton, M.D., Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and Fellow of the Society of Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, is a specialized cardiologist with Cardiology Associates in Fairhope and practices at Thomas Hospital. Responsible for bringing TAVR to Baldwin County, he is dedicated to enhancing access to state-of-the-art cardiology care.

Dr. Thornton states, “Aortic valve stenosis is a condition in which the aortic valve does not open properly and makes it difficult for the heart to circulate blood normally. It affects about one in 50 people over the age of 65 and becomes more common with age. The only treatment for this condition is to replace the defective valve. Without treatment, aortic stenosis is uniformly fatal, usually within one to two years of diagnosis. Previously, the only way to accomplish this was through open heart surgery.”

When the valve narrows, it doesn't fully open, which blocks blood flow from the heart. This increases cardiac workload and decreases ability of one’s heart to maintain cardiac output during times of exertion. Signs and symptoms can include heart murmur and chest pain, feeling faint or dizzy, shortness of breath, and excess fatigue when active.

The average hospital stay for a patient who has had a TAVR procedure is 24 hours, with most patients resuming normal activities within three to five days. This is in contrast to open heart surgery, where the average hospital stay is five to seven days with a much longer recovery time. The risks of complications are less as well, including heart attack and death. Dr. Thornton specializes in the TAVR procedure and performs it at Thomas Hospital, which is the first and only hospital in Baldwin County to offer this minimally invasive, life-saving procedure.

For those questioning whether TAVR is right for them, call Cardiology Associates, located on the campus of Thomas Hospital at 251-990-9500. To see a short video presentation about the procedure, visit https://youtu.be/sUf8MojU5xs.