Ascension Via Christi Structural Heart achieves groundbreaking 'first,' provides new hope for woman with failing heart

On Nov. 16, a 65-year-old woman from Hutchinson, Kansas, became the first person in the world to undergo a transcatheter mitral valve replacement addressing both severe mitral stenosis and mitral valve regurgitation using Abbott’s newest generation Cephea TMVR System

Terri Lohmeyer with her CICU nurse following her first-of-its-kind TMVR procedure

"For this unique application of the system, our team had to petition the Food and Drug Administration for special authorization under its compassionate/humanitarian protocol," says interventional cardiologist Bassem Chehab, MD, who along with cardiothoracic surgeon Brett Grizzell, MD, and cardiologists Aziz Maksoud, MD and Gaurav Tyagi, MD, leads the Structural Heart team at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis.

Terri says she feels blessed to have had access to a therapeutic option still under such early development and by the highly skilled multidisciplinary team that made it possible.

"They fought so hard for me and have taken such good care of me,” she says, noting that her only other option was hospice care. “God put this team in my life and now I have my life back.”

Prior to her procedure, Terri says she would become fatigued and out of breath after taking only a few steps despite being on chronic oxygen therapy. But within two days of her procedure, she no longer required oxygen and was “walking around the (Cardio Thoracic Intensive Care) unit like I owned the place.”

Terri was discharged home from the hospital just five days after her life-changing procedure.

"Being allowed to apply this pioneering technology in a unique way to benefit Terri was a privilege,” says Dr. Chehab, as was the trust placed in the team by the device manufacturer, federal regulators, the hospital’s investigational review board, and Terri and her family.

This first-in-human application of Abbott's newest mitral valve replacement system is just one of a number of leading-edge minimally invasive valve repair and replacement procedures being done at St. Francis, where over the past decade the team has performed approximately 2,500 procedures in its hybrid OR.

Having gained national and international attention early on for consistent and predictable outcomes, the team is now routinely selected to participate in elite clinical studies of new therapies and devices being developed to treat patients with aortic, mitral, and tricuspid valve stenosis and/or regurgitation; atrial fibrillation; stroke; congestive heart disease and heart failure; and coronary artery disease.

They were among a handful of centers invited this year to participate in three global pivotal clinical trials exploring new therapeutic options for patients with failing tricuspid valves. Previously, patients with failing tricuspid valves have had limited treatment options, resulting in heart failure, frequent hospitalizations and a diminished quality of life.

“Our participation in these trials of cutting-edge technologies is helping shape the future of structural heart therapies for patients around the world," says Dr. Grizzell. "It also allows patients in our community to benefit from these clinical breakthroughs much sooner than they otherwise could, which can be a lifesaver for acutely-ill patients who are running out of options and time.”

Three years ago, Abbott selected the team as one of four North American global training centers of excellence for its structural heart business. Through this program, the team's expertise in treating patients with a wide range of structural heart conditions is being shared with specialists worldwide.

“Being selected as a worldwide training center for one of the world’s leading medical device manufacturers is a testament to the excellent outcomes we are consistently achieving,” says Dr. Chehab.

The Ascension Via Christi team has performed nearly 1,600 transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, procedures, including numerous clinical trials of valves under development by multiple medical device manufacturers and one exploring the benefit of expanding indications for inclusion to patients at a much earlier stage with just moderate aortic stenosis.

“Currently, TAVR is only commercially available to patients with severe aortic stenosis after the damage to their heart is almost irreversible," says Dr. Chehab. "Through our participation in this study, patients can access cutting-edge therapy early on in their disease process."

The team also is participating in major clinical trials of mitral valve therapies such as Abbott's first-of-its-kind Tendyne transcatheter mitral valve replacement system for treating mitral regurgitation.

Through participation in these select trials, the team has access to a half dozen different mitral valve repair and replacement therapies when developing a personalized treatment plan for each patient.

"It makes our jobs easier as clinicians as we have multiple tools to utilize, allowing us to tailor our therapies to the patient rather than the other way around," says Dr. Chehab, who along with Dr. Grizzell expressed appreciation for the entire team and the hospital leadership that supports them and the program.

"Being able to successfully perform another first-in-human procedure is a significant accomplishment, one that doesn't happen without extraordinary teamwork and coordination on everyone's part," says Dr. Chehab. “What makes this sweeter is that all these innovations are done so close to home right in Wichita.”

Learn more about heart care at Ascension Via Christi by visiting