New Procedure Helps Keep Wisconsin Man Young at Heart

Charles Kaeding may be almost 90. But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to slow down. He agreed to be the first person at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire to have a transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure versus the more traditional open-heart procedure.

In just a few years, Charles Kaeding will celebrate his 90th birthday. But that doesn't mean he's ready to slow down. In fact, quite the opposite. The 87-year-old Augusta, Wisconsin, resident and lifelong farmer still shovels snow, picks up "heavy items," and "enjoys helping his son on the farm," he recently told the Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Leader-Telegram. So when Charles began feeling fatigued and short of breath after these activities, he was worried. He could feel his breath catch, he told the paper, describing it as "a feeling that shouldn't be there."

Charles scheduled an appointment with his physician, who referred him to Vien Le, M.D., a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire. After running some tests, Dr. Le told Charles that he had aortic stenosis, or a narrowing of his heart's aortic valve. The narrowing meant the valve couldn't open all the way, making it harder for his heart to pump blood to the rest of his body. The best treatment, Charles was told, was valve replacement surgery.

In the past, that would have meant open-heart surgery. But Dr. Le thought there might be another option. So he discussed Charles' case with colleagues at the Valve Evaluation Clinic, and the team agreed. Charles was "offered the option of having a minimally invasive procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, versus the more traditional open-heart procedure," the Leader-Telegram reports." Doctors would use a catheter to insert a replacement valve into Charles' damaged aortic valve. After hearing the benefits of the newer procedure — "including less pain, decreased risk and a quicker recovery" than traditional surgery — Charles agreed.

He also agreed to be the first person to have the procedure done at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire. In the past, patients needed to travel to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus for the procedure. But a team from Eau Claire recently completed a year of training in Rochester and now performs the procedure locally. Robert Wiechmann, M.D., performed Charles' procedure and says Charles was "the perfect candidate" for the operation, which, he noted, "went very well."

Charles agrees, telling the paper the procedure "couldn't have gone any better," and that he felt "wonderful about the experience and what it's done." (We're guessing that means he's back to work on the farm and ready for more heavy lifting.)

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