Surgery-free heart valve replacement - FOX 35 News Orlando

Surgery-free heart valve replacement

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ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

"I just like to be free, up in the air," Duyane Hoffman says.

Hoffman spent more than 30 years of his life as a pilot, even flying during World War II.

"Here's a 22 year old guy going across the ocean," Hoffman recalls. "How lucky can you get?"

But last year, the 92-year-old thought his luck was running out.

"I began to run out of air when I was talking," Hoffman says. "I couldn't finish sentences. I'd have to take a deep breath."

Hoffman was diagnosed with aortic stenosis. Calcification caused the aortic valve in his heart to stiffen, preventing it from fully opening. His heart was having a hard time pumping blood to the rest of his body.

'The normal aortic valve for a normal patient should be more than 2 cm square that is bigger than a quarter coin," Jose Arias, M.D. , a cardiologist at Florida Hospital, explains. "People that have aortic stenosis, the aortic valve is so narrow, it's equal to probably the seed of an apple."

The only fix -- replacing his valve, but at Hoffman's age, open heart surgery wasn't an option.

"I saw the doctor and he said, 'Well if you can make it for six more months, we might have something for you,'" Hoffman says.

That something is the new TAVR procedure at Florida Hospital, which requires just a few tiny incisions.

(Doctors thread a catheter through a patient's leg and into their heart. A new valve and stent are sent up the catheter, where are a balloon expands, putting it over the old valve.

"It's really amazing going [from] a pretty invasive procedure, full chest open, stop your heart [and] now we are doing this deployment of a new valve in a beating heart," Dr. Arias says.

And the recovery time is minimal.

"By the end of the day, there was hardly any pain," Hoffman says.

He was back up on his feet in a week, and he doesn't plan on slowing down any time soon.

"Just keep going, that's all," Hoffman says. "I have no more plans to fly or anything like that."

Hoffman was the first person in Central Florida to have the TAVR procedure performed.

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