Structural Heart Disease Specialist Leads New Program
July 2013 -- Dr. Zachary Gertz (M.D., MBE) joined the VCU Department of Internal Medicine Division of Cardiology and Pauley Heart Center last year after completing his Cardiology Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. Upon his arrival, Dr. Gertz established VCU’s first structural heart disease program, the VCU Pauley Heart Valve Center. This allows the Division of Cardiology and Pauley Heart Center to offer catheterization procedures that repair a variety of structural heart issues without surgery, such as abnormal heart valves, holes and other problems.
Dr. Zachary Gertz joined VCU in 2012 and established VCU’s new structural heart disease program, the VCU Pauley Heart Valve Center.
Among the procedures Dr. Gertz performs is one that is new to VCU and recently approved by the FDA. This procedure is known as Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR). The valve replacement involves inserting a valve on a stent through an IV in the femoral artery of the patient’s leg and anchoring the new valve inside the old aortic valve. Dr. Gertz performs the TAVR procedure in partnership with Dr. Derek Brinster of the VCU Department of Surgery.
Significantly, the TAVR procedure allows physicians to repair a patient’s aortic valve without open heart surgery, exhibiting similar results as surgery, yet drastically reducing hospital length-of-stay (the average time is 4-7 days). In published clinical studies, TAVR has shown a large mortality improvement in patients who are not candidates for traditional surgery. Currently, it is performed in less than one percent of hospitals in the US. Furthermore, Dr. Gertz brings unique experience in this procedure as he trained at the University of Pennsylvania, one of the first sites in the country to test TAVR.
The TAVR procedure allows physicians to repair a patient’s aortic valve without open heart surgery, exhibiting similar results as surgery, yet drastically reducing hospital length-of-stay
Currently, TAVR is only approved for patients with increased risk for surgery who do not qualify for open heart surgery – mostly elderly patients with multiple illnesses. However, as clinical trials continue, it is expected that the procedure will be approved for patients with moderate surgery risk in the near future .
Looking forward, Dr. Gertz is excited to seek out new procedures for the Structural Heart Program to investigate and provide to our patients. “The program should be partnering in the fall with Dr. Keyur Shah of the Division of Cardiology to work on a new technique to treat post heart attack patients with enlarged hearts.”
One of the most immediate tasks for the new Structural Program is the establishment of a robust referral network. “I am constantly working to build a referral network, and we have a structural clinic every week and strive to take patients immediately,” says Dr. Gertz. “I want people to know we are very happy to take care of all sorts of complex issues.” -- IM