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Phoebe Further Advances Heart Procedures to Community

Albany, GA | March 15, 2022 – Over the years, Phoebe has upheld its commitment to provide some of the finest medical talent and technology found anywhere in America. Its Heart & Vascular services are a prime example of that expertise that has brought many firsts to the communities Phoebe serves.

Last week Phoebe’s Heart & Vascular became the first hospital south of Macon to use technology shown to help protect high risk patients from the risk of stroke during transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). The team utilized the SENTINEL™ Cerebral Protection System (CPS), which physically captures debris dislodged during TAVR before it can reach the brain and potentially cause stroke. The system will allow the team to perform TAVR on patients that previously would not qualify for the procedure due to stroke risk. 

“We have a rich tradition of providing exceptional heart and vascular care. Our top priority is patient safety and providing our patients with the highest level of care. This new device will not be used on all patients but makes TAVR a viable option in treating higher risk patients’ aortic stenosis by reducing their risk of stroke,” added Dr. Mark Cohen, medical director of Phoebe Cardiology and interventional cardiologist.

Additionally, Phoebe recently became the first hospital in southwest Georgia to offer non-surgical closure of patent foramen ovale (PFO) to repair this potentially life-threatening heart defect. PFO is one of the most common types of congenital heart defects. 

Dr. Tharmathai Ramanan, who performed the milestone PFO procedure, brings advanced training and experience to Phoebe‘s Heart & Vascular team of experts, which she joined in September 2021. She is helping the structural heart specialists expand access to TAVR, watchman and PFO in southwest Georgia. 

“PFO is usually a benign congenital defect except in patients who have strokes. This is especially true if we do not have any other cause for stroke. Often this happens in young patients, and they benefit greatly from having the PFO closed in a minimally invasive manner,” said Dr. Ramanan.

Affecting up to 25 percent of the population, PFO is the result of an incomplete closure of tissue between the two upper chambers of the heart, which normally occurs at birth. Most people with PFO have no side effects. However, in some people – especially those with other heart problems – blood clots can travel through a small, flap-like opening and into the brain, causing a stroke, a TIA (transient ischemic attack or “mini-stroke”) or heart attack.

In the past, open heart surgery or a lifetime of dependence on blood thinning medication were the only known treatments for PFO. Today, specially trained interventional cardiologists perform this revolutionary, non-surgical procedure to correct these defects in adults. Patients typically experience few complications and can resume normal daily activities within a week.

“At Phoebe we’ve always been committed to the notion that residents of southwest Georgia deserve the same access to state-of-the-art healthcare as residents of the largest metropolitan centers. The expansion of our structural heart program services to include PFO repair and utilizing CPS to reduce the risk of stroke during TAVR procedures are two examples of that continued commitment,” said, Joe Austin, CEO, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.

Phoebe launched the region’s first open-heart surgery program nearly 40 years ago and has remained on the cutting-edge of heart care ever since – earning distinctions for excellence. The multi-disciplinary, structural heart program includes cardiology, cardiovascular surgery, vascular surgery and electrophysiology. In 2019, the Heart & Vascular team performed its 100th TAVR procedure and launched WATCHMAN.