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Heart and Vascular Center

Breathing easier after heart valve replacement

Even with an oxygen tank, Marcella Haskamp’s heart valve disease stole her breath, sending her to the emergency room on multiple occasions.

Doctors at the MU Heart and Vascular Center diagnosed Marcella, 92, of Jefferson City, Missouri, with aortic stenosis. One of the valves in her heart was not working properly, so her blood was not circulating well. As a result, Marcella struggled to breathe — a struggle that often required using an oxygen tank. She also tired easily, and found herself increasingly using her walker as a “mini wheelchair,” sitting on the walker’s seat instead of walking with it.

In August 2015, Marcella underwent a new heart valve replacement procedure at University of Missouri Health Care. Cardiothoracic surgeon Ajit Tharakan, MD, and Sudarshan Balla, MD, cardiac imaging specialist, were part of the team that implanted a new, synthetic valve in Marcella’s heart using a procedure named transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR.

“If she wants to do something, she can get up and do it now,” said Becky Haskamp, Marcella’s daughter, at a follow-up appointment one month later. “She has more energy and does not have so many limitations.”

Marcella said she is walking more and has limited her oxygen tank use to only at night while she sleeps. She has not returned to an emergency room since receiving the replacement valve.

“I think I’m doing good,” said Marcella. “I’m thankful for the heart team here.”

University of Missouri Health Care is the first hospital in mid-Missouri to provide the TAVR procedure for high-risk surgical patients who are not able to undergo open heart surgery.

“The open procedure is still the gold standard for most patients,” Tharakan said. “However, TAVR is an effective option to improve the quality of life for patients like Marcella who otherwise have limited choices for repair of their aortic valves. With this procedure, we are able to repair the damaged valve using a transcatheter approach, a less invasive method that does not require open heart surgery.”

To learn more about MU Health Care’s heart valve clinic or the TAVR procedure, please visit

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