Transcatheter aortic valve replacement is not just a medical procedure in Dr. Martin Rains' eyes.
It's also a statement.
"This is a statement both to the people of our community and our region, but really throughout the state that, medically, Paducah is on the forefront," he said. " ... We're offering advanced-level care that competes with the big cities and, traditionally, our patients, our family, our friends have had to go to (the cities) to see that."
Rains, who attended Paducah Tilghman High School, served as this week's Rotary Club of Paducah speaker at its Wednesday meeting in the Carson Center's Myre River Room. He's an interventional/structural cardiologist for Baptist Health Paducah and detailed some of the "nuts and bolts" of TAVR for Paducah Rotarians, before taking some questions.
TAVR, he explained, is a potential alternative to open-heart surgery for patients that was implemented locally by Baptist Health Paducah in 2019. It tackles the valve disease of aortic stenosis, or narrowing of the aortic valve. The disease can restrict blood flow.
Aortic stenosis happens most commonly due to aging, according to Rains.
"It's really nothing that anyone does to themselves like many other heart conditions," he said. "This is honestly just something that happens because your heart is beating how many billions of times throughout your life."
TAVR involves inserting a catheter, which is guided to the heart and delivers the valve replacement. It offers a shorter recovery time due to its less-invasive nature. Rains estimated the average procedure time is 60-90 minutes.
"You're looking at a one- or two-day stay in the hospital, as opposed to traditional open-heart surgery -- (which) is probably five, six, seven days bare minimum," he said.
The procedure was first performed at Baptist Health Paducah on Oct. 22, 2019, and seven patients were successfully treated before the end of the year.
However, Rains noted patients are evaluated to decide which option is better for them, as each person is different. Medical staff also look at other factors, such as comorbidities or medical problems.
"I think most people in our field would argue that aside from the first open-heart surgery done here in the mid '80s, this is the single biggest advance in health care for this region since then, because it opens up a whole new breadth of options," he said.