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EIRMC Achieves Two Milestones in Cardiac Care

Published online: Mar 30, 2023 Health & Wellness
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Idaho Falls, ID—    During the month of March, Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC) achieved two significant milestones, solidifying its position as the most comprehensive and advanced cardiology program in the region.

The cardiology team performed its 300th Transaortic Valve Replacement (called TAVR) to treat aortic stenosis, a valve disease that reduces or blocks blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body.  Soon after reaching this milestone, EIRMC performed its 500th Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC).

During TAVR, an interventional cardiologist inserts a new valve within the diseased valve, in a similar way to stents being placed within a damaged artery. Using a minimally invasive approach, the damaged aortic valve is accessed via the femoral artery near the groin, thus avoiding a large incision.

“TAVR patients have shorter hospital stays, recover faster and feel better quicker. It’s rewarding to see, and beneficial to adult patients of all ages. I’ve even performed it on a 100-year-old,” Dr. Brett Hiendlmayr, Interventional Cardiologist, said. “The biggest barrier to the treatment is getting properly diagnosed with aortic stenosis in the first place. That’s why I tell people that if they’re experiencing one of the three main symptoms of aortic stenosis – chest discomfort, shortness of breath or feeling dizzy – they should seek medical attention.”

Margene Welker was EIRMC’s 300th TAVR patient.  Prior to being diagnosed with aortic stenosis, she often needed to sit down and catch her breath after walking only a few feet.  “It started taking longer and longer to recover. I just huffed and puffed and lost all my air,” Margene said. “The feeling didn’t come with sharp pains, but the pressure felt like an elephant sitting on my chest.”

Aortic stenosis was traditionally addressed with an open surgery, with a large incision and lengthy recovery, something that Margene was very reluctant to do.

After more tests and a discussion between structural and interventional cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, anesthesiologists and others, Margene’s heart team deemed her to be a good candidate for the TAVR procedure.

The Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) helps patients with atrial fibrillation (A Fib), a heart condition where the upper chambers of the heart beat too fast and with irregular rhythm. A Fib is the most common cardiac arrhythmia; people with this condition have five times greater risk of stroke than those with normal heart rhythms.

During this procedure, the implant device closes off the left atrial appendage (LAA) of the heart.  This keeps harmful blood clots that can form in the LAA from entering the blood stream and potentially causing a stroke. By closing off the LAA, the risk of stroke may be reduced and, over time, patients may be able to stop taking blood thinners that serve a similar function.

About EIRMC:  The largest medical facility in the region, Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC) is a full-service hospital with over 300 patient beds. It serves as the region’s healthcare hub, serving Idaho, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park and Montana. With a Level II Trauma Center; Level I ICU; the region’s only pediatric intensive care unit; the most experienced Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the region; and the state’s only Burn Center, EIRMC provides valued and vital resources to the communities it serves.


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