Doc Talk | Treating heart problems for the elderly


Many elderly people with heart problems assume there’s nothing they can do to treat or manage it. Open heart surgery is generally avoided for those over the age of 75, but minimally invasive surgery, doctors say, is just as effective.

Before surgery, Maxine Morris of Shippensburg was feeling beyond exhausted. She was lethargic.

“At night after dinner time, I’d feel like if I didn’t sit down, I’d fall down,” said Maxine Morris, of Shippensburg.

She finally saw her doctor, who referred her to a cardiologist.

“She was quite concerned. She said this should have been done some time ago,” said Morris.

An echocardiogram showed she was suffering from aortic stenosis, a thickening of the aortic valve which causes the valve space to narrow and the heart to work a lot harder to pump blood throughout the body. For someone who’s elderly, frail, or has other medical problems, doctors say open heart surgery is not a safe option.

“They’re at very high risk of developing complications of an open chest surgery,” said Geisinger Holy Spirit cardiologist Dr. Rajesh Dave.

That’s why a few months later, Dr. Dave performed another procedure which required no rehab.

“These patients do much better with a less invasive surgery where there’s a tiny needle hole in the groin artery through which we can implant this stent valve,” said Dr. Dave.

“To me it was just like a miracle,” said Morris.

Just a few months later, Morris said her health has improved so much, “I could go. I get up and go all day, sometimes play cards until after midnight.”

Aortic stenosis can have symptoms, but it doesn’t always. Even if you’re feeling tired like Maxine Morris was, call your doctor.

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