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Hartland woman becomes Wisconsin's first to undergo new heart valve replacement procedure

Posted at 6:41 PM, Aug 26, 2021

MILWAUKEE — When open-heart surgery wasn't an option, a Hartland woman became the first in Wisconsin to undergo a new procedure to replace a heart valve.

At 75 years old, Barbara Bellin did not think she would help make history as the state's first patient to undergo a new procedure to replace a leaking heart valve.

"I really didn’t have any other options left," Bellin said.

Bellin had severe tricuspid valve regurgitation, which can lead to excessive swelling and fluid in the body. She said it was getting to the point that walking became difficult.

Dr. Eric Weiss, a cardiac surgeon at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, said the only approach previously was open-heart surgery. However, due to age and other conditions, Bellin was too high-risk for that.

Instead, as part of a clinical trial, the team at Aurora Health Care performed a minimally invasive procedure called tricuspid transcatheter valve replacement. The health system said Bellin was only the eighth person in the country to have it done.

"The main difference is because we don’t have to open the heart or go through the chest. The recovery is much faster," Dr. Weiss said.

"I was very interested. I was ready to have it done," Bellin said. "I did feel good right away."

Dr. Weiss said Bellin's condition is fairly common affecting millions of people across the country, but only about 8,000 open heart procedures are done each year to manage it, leaving a vast majority of cases untreated.

"I think this is making a difference, because it’s offering opportunities to patients that they wouldn’t have had otherwise," Dr. Weiss said.

As for Bellin, she can get back to doing what she enjoys: painting and taking walks.

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