How William got his groove back—and his golf swing
William Prindiville, an 89-year-old former World War II fighter pilot and metal-casting engineer became one of the first patients at Advocate Christ Medical Center to undergo a non-surgical procedure known as Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR.
The surgery proved a godsend for Prindiville. “I feel 10 or 15 years younger,” he says. ”Now, I just want to know how soon I can go and try to play golf again.”
Prindiville’s condition, called aortic stenosis, occurs when calcium deposits accumulate on the aortic valve—the main valve in the heart—making it thick and harder to open properly. A malfunctioning aortic valve reduces blood flow from the heart and forces the left ventricle of the heart to increase pressure to pump blood through the valve. That can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and fainting or dizziness.
Until recently, patients who were too high risk for open heart surgery had few options for treating their valve problems. “Thanks to TAVR, we are able to improve the length of life and quality of life for patients who cannot undergo surgery,” says Dr. Ravi Ramana, a cardiologist at Christ Medical Center’s Heart and Vascular Institute and a member of the team that performed Prindiville’s valve-replacement procedure.
Under the procedure, surgeons make a small incision in the patient’s groin and insert a catheter, threaded into the heart, to inflate a balloon that pushes open and crushes the old heart valve. Then they use the catheter to deliver a stent, which is like a small chicken wire, into the area once occupied by the old heart valve. With the stent forced open, surgeons can insert the new heart valve.
Unlike open-heart surgery, patients are spending an average of only three or four days in the hospital following the procedure. For Prindiville, a fighter pilot in World War II, that means a swift return to the golf course, even though it does not assure him a better score.
“Unfortunately, golf handicaps only go up with age—never down,” he says.
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