New heart valve replacement surgery has little downtime

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There's a new heart valve replacement surgery that has little to no downtime. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) There's a new heart valve replacement surgery that has little to no downtime. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The surgeons make a tiny incision in the groin and insert a replacement valve through the femoral artery. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The surgeons make a tiny incision in the groin and insert a replacement valve through the femoral artery. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The life-saving TAVR procedure became cutting edge about 5 years ago. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The life-saving TAVR procedure became cutting edge about 5 years ago. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Donald Enlow had the surgery. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Donald Enlow had the surgery. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Replacing a heart valve used to mean a long recovery and a very invasive surgery.

Now it's little to no downtime at all. And one Valley hospital is taking things a step further.

For 89-year-old Donald Enlow, it was a big day when he was about to undergo a transcatheter aortic valve replacement, a minimally invasive procedure for those living with aortic stenosis, which is a narrowing of the aortic valve that blocks blood flow to the heart and the rest of the body.

"If it gets overdone and the heart quits, then you die, so it's a must," said Enlow.

Enlow, his family and surgeons Timothy Byrne and Merick Kirshner invited Arizona's Family into the operating room to witness the procedure that is nothing short of incredible. The TAVR procedure is an alternative to open-heart surgery with very little downtime.

"The normal opening is maybe the size of a silver dollar and when patients start getting symptoms, typically, the opening is less than the size of a dime," Dr. Byrne said.

The surgeons make a tiny incision in the groin and insert a replacement valve through the femoral artery. You might wonder how in the world would they fit something like that into a tube about the size of a vein.

A team of medical professionals stand by the patient's bed and with a handheld device and some water, squish the valve down, small enough to fit inside the tiny incision.

From there, it travels to Enlow's heart.

 After about 45 minutes, Enlow's procedure is complete and everything went great.

 The lifesaving TAVR procedure became cutting edge about five years ago.

"It's been the most gratifying thing of my career, which is now 21 years and rolling," said Bryne.

Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital in Phoenix, though, is taking things a step further. It is now one of 80 sites nationwide performing the procedure on low-risk, not just high-risk, patients as part of a two-year advanced clinical trial.

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