Columbus woman first in North America, fourth in world to undergo new heart procedure

ATLANTA, Ga. – Physicians at Piedmont’s Marcus Heart Valve Center opened new doors for patients who are traditionally turned away for valve replacement due to severe thickening and stiffening of the mitral valve. By successfully performing a groundbreaking procedure for the first time in the United States and only the fourth of its kind in world, they have shown replacement can be done in high risk patients.

“There were no other options for me,” said 76-year-old Margaret Komendantov who lives in Fortson just north of Columbus. The wife of a Vietnam veteran and retiree of Suntrust Bank now looks forward to a trip to St. George Island on Florida’s Gulf Coast with her husband, three children, daughter-in-law and four grandsons. “Our last trip was not fun. I wasn’t able to walk from one end of the house to the other. I’m going to enjoy this vacation.”

Months of collaborating with colleagues in Washington, DC, London and Switzerland and pleading their case for compassionate use earned the Piedmont physicians’ approval from Boston Scientific and the FDA to use the Lotus Valve System to replace Komendantov’s calcified and failing mitral valve. Approval was required because the technology is still in clinical trials for replacement of aortic valves, not mitral.HeartValve2

“Thousands of patients suffer from mitral valve regurgitation due to severe stenosis. When the valve fails, oxygen-rich blood can’t get out of the heart chamber to sustain rest of the body,” explained interventional cardiologist Christopher Meduri, M.D., MPH, who performed the procedure alongside a team of experts at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. “Our collaborations and petitions for approval to do this procedure have gotten the attention of other valve centers across the country. We look forward to sharing our expertise so more people have an option for treatment.”

HeartValve1Komendantov’s interventional cardiologist in Columbus for the past 15 years, Rajinder Chhokar, M.D., couldn’t agree more. “Hardening of the arteries happens as you age, and our population is living longer. Many of my older patients are not candidates for the traditional surgical treatments we offer here in Columbus. They will benefit from this option being more readily available.”

Despite Komendantov’s significant disease, she has never had a heart attack. She credits her doctors in Columbus, Dr. Chhokar and Jefferson Jones, M.D., who has been her primary care physician for 20 years, as well as the team of physicians at Piedmont. Dr. Chhokar, on the other hand, says Komendantov’s role was critical to preventing a heart attack.

“Margaret is a very intelligent woman who does her research, talks openly with her family and understands the gravity of her situation,” Dr. Chhokar said. “Genetics are playing a role in her disease, so we prescribed medicines to manage her cholesterol and blood pressure, regular physician visits, good diet and exercise. But, she had to be the one to take the medicine and our advice. She is 76 years old because she did everything she could to fight it.”

“Without treatment, there was a 50 percent chance Margaret wouldn’t have lived an additional two years,” said Dr. Meduri. “But because we went to such lengths to find a solution that worked for her, Margaret’s prognosis is much better and her quality of life will be greatly improved.”

For more information about Piedmont’s Marcus Heart Valve Center, visit piedmont.org.

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