Conemaugh Memorial Performs New Heart Valve Procedure

July 13, 2016

One day after having the region’s first Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) for aortic stenosis,  94-year-old Merle Miller of Carrolltown was up and walking with a big smile on his face. 

“I was not afraid to be the very first patient,” says Mr. Miller. “Dr. Penumetsa explained it so well to me. He is a darn good physician and I had complete faith in him and his team.” 

Severe aortic stenosis is caused by a narrowing in the aortic valve. People start experiencing symptoms because the heart is not getting enough oxygen rich blood to the body.  Signs of aortic stenosis may include tightness in the chest, fatigue, dizziness, heart palpitations, sensations of a rapid fluttering heartbeat and difficulty walking short distances.  

Approximately 2.5 million Americans over age 75 suffer from the disease and timely treatment is critical. After onset of symptoms, patients with severe aortic stenosis have a low survival rate without treatment; 50% die in 1 year and 80% die in 2 years. *

The procedure, referred to as TAVR, gives new hope to patients who have been deemed too sick or too high risk for open heart surgery. Conemaugh Memorial is the only cardiac program between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg to offer this procedure and one of only 400 programs nationwide. 

“This is a less invasive procedure that gives hope to patients who might otherwise have not had any options,” says Dr. Srikanth Penumetsa, an interventional cardiologist with Conemaugh Physician Group. “The TAVR procedure is performed through an incision in the leg. Using catheters, we are able to place a new valve within the diseased valve. The frame of the new valve is very strong and able to push the diseased valve aside.” 

“Severe symptomatic aortic valve stenosis is the most common valvular disease in the elderly and it is associated with very poor outcomes if left untreated,” says Dr. Savas Mavridis, Medical Director of Cardiovascular Services and Chief Cardiac Surgeon at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center. “Surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR) is the standard treatment and improves symptoms, quality of life and prolongs survival. 
Unfortunately a great number of patients (20-40%) are deemed too high risk for SAVR because they have multiple health issues which raise their morbidity and mortality risk during and after surgery. We’re excited to have this alternative option (TAVR) for these high risk patients. In patients with high risk, the outcome from TAVR is comparable to open heart surgery.” 

Mr. Miller, who was up and walking the day after his procedure, is now back to living at home and enjoying simple tasks like taking walks and mowing his grass. “I can’t say enough about the team at Conemaugh,” says Mr. Miller. “I am feeling great, better than I have in a long time, and I’m so glad to be able to get this care here close to home.”  

Risk factors for aortic stenosis include; increasing in age, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, deformed aortic valve, Rheumatic fever, radiation therapy to the chest and family history. People with these risk factors should speak with their primary care physician. To learn more, visit 

*Otto CM. Timing of aortic valve surgery.Heart.2000; 84:211-21.

About Conemaugh Memorial’s Cardiac Program 

Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center (MMC), a Duke LifePoint hospital, has been on the cutting edge of cardiac care since beginning the Catheterization and Open Heart program more than 25-years ago. In that time, Conemaugh Memorial’s team has performed more than 9,000 open heart surgeries, 62,000 cardiac catheterizations, 40,000 EKGs, 17,000 cardiac tests and 20,000 vascular tests. The comprehensive cardiac and vascular program includes Cardiology, Electrophysiology, Interventional Cardiology, Cardiac and Vascular Surgery all performed by physicians board certified in their specialty. Conemaugh’s program repeatedly earns state and national recognition for patient outcomes including recent recognition by Highmark with the Quality Blue distinction for Cardiac Care. 

For more information on TAVR please visit the following link: