Breaking News
September 20, 2018 - Investigators find that bile acids reduce cocaine reward
September 20, 2018 - Cannabinoid drugs reduce perceived unpleasantness of painful stimuli and increase tolerance
September 20, 2018 - Geroscience takes center stage in Journal of the American Medical Association
September 20, 2018 - Ambient Particulate Matter Linked to Emergency Asthma Care
September 20, 2018 - Patient satisfaction with plastic surgery—it’s the surgeon, not the practice
September 20, 2018 - Medicine is a team sport – and that’s exactly how it should be
September 20, 2018 - Logos Biosystems releases new electrophoretic tissue clearing system with twice the features in half the space
September 20, 2018 - Novel micro-platform reveals never-before-seen behaviors of cancer cells
September 20, 2018 - PAREXEL partners with Datavant to enhance clinical study design and generate real-world evidence
September 20, 2018 - Robert Koch Institute publishes new data on allergies, mental health problems, and accident injuries
September 20, 2018 - Study finds higher readmission rates in for-profit hospitals
September 20, 2018 - Encouraging youth to do strength-based exercises could help tackle child obesity
September 20, 2018 - Sleep apnea, congenital heart disease in hospitalized infants strongly associated with death
September 20, 2018 - Researchers find way to map mysterious content of non-coding RNA
September 20, 2018 - Air Pollutants Reach Placenta, Might Harm Fetus: Study
September 20, 2018 - Sleep apnea, congenital heart disease may be deadly mix for hospitalized infants
September 20, 2018 - My relative has cancer, should I worry? Encouraging cascade genetic testing
September 20, 2018 - Investigators determine specific treatable traits that can predict future asthma attacks
September 20, 2018 - More doctor visits can lower risk of suicide attempts in fibromyalgia patients
September 20, 2018 - Computer avatars play role in diagnosis of dementia
September 20, 2018 - Addition of CTLA4 targeted therapy to PD-1 targeted therapy may benefit patients with ovarian cancer
September 20, 2018 - ASPREE trial explores whether low dose aspirin can prolong good health in elderly people
September 20, 2018 - ATS publishes new guideline focused on weight loss strategies for sleep apnea patients
September 20, 2018 - The Current issue of “The view from here” is concerned with Drug Delivery
September 19, 2018 - Sleep apnea could favour tumor growth at young ages
September 19, 2018 - Stealth vaping fad hidden from parents, teachers
September 19, 2018 - Witnessing school violence linked to later risk of psycho-social and academic impairment
September 19, 2018 - Common household cleaners could make children overweight by changing gut microbiota
September 19, 2018 - Salk research in yeast leads to serendipitous finding about hypomyelinating leukodystrophy
September 19, 2018 - Study: Overweight or obese women may have increased risk of urinary incontinence
September 19, 2018 - Study shows how cellular waste disposal processes also promote inflammation
September 19, 2018 - New multidisciplinary microsurgery microscope, PROVIDO, introduced by Leica
September 19, 2018 - Phase 2b STORM Data Evaluating Selinexor in Patients with Penta-Refractory Multiple Myeloma Presented at the Society of Hematologic Oncology 2018 Annual Meeting
September 19, 2018 - Decisions recruiting gut feelings seen as reflection of true self, more assuredly held, study says
September 19, 2018 - How AI can improve end-of-life care
September 19, 2018 - UNIST and Ulsan initiate research collaboration to develop human organs-on-chips
September 19, 2018 - Study highlights key role of migrating shoals of fish in sustaining deep-ocean microorganisms
September 19, 2018 - Disagreeable individuals can benefit most from behaving more compassionately, finds study
September 19, 2018 - Janssen Submits New Drug Application to U.S. FDA Seeking Approval of Erdafitinib for the Treatment of Metastatic Urothelial Cancer
September 19, 2018 - Neuroplasticity is increased but dysregulated in the aging brain, study finds
September 19, 2018 - Suicide: A public health crisis
September 19, 2018 - Infants using popular anti-reflux medicines are not at increased risk of lung infections
September 19, 2018 - Stanford team will participate in NIH-funded study of tobacco policies | News Center
September 19, 2018 - Women with high levels of anti-Müllerian hormone more likely to develop breast cancer
September 19, 2018 - Researchers use larval zebrafish model to reveal role of locus coeruleus in anesthesia
September 19, 2018 - Effects of prematurity found to be more severe for the brains of males than females
September 19, 2018 - NIH funds CWRU to investigate new imaging approach for diagnosing peripheral arterial disease
September 19, 2018 - NUS researchers develop new device for quick and accurate screening of diseases
September 19, 2018 - Leading nutritionist explains about different types of iron in oral supplements
September 19, 2018 - New Crest Gum & Enamel Repair toothpaste may boost enamel repair and reverse gingivitis
September 19, 2018 - Analysis does not find any safety concerns of bivalent HPV vaccine
September 19, 2018 - Many Older Adults Transition to Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use
September 19, 2018 - Caregiving – resources – older adults: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
September 19, 2018 - Research shows that cystic fibrosis impacts growth in the womb
September 19, 2018 - Study shows how head, neck positioning affects concussion risk | News Center
September 19, 2018 - Antioxidant in green tea helps sneak therapeutic RNAs into cells
September 19, 2018 - Excess pregnancy weight gain affects cardiometabolic risk in offspring
September 19, 2018 - Penn researchers find common thread linking almost all TNR expansion diseases
September 19, 2018 - Ipsen receives approval from Health Canada for CABOMETYX tablets for treating renal cell carcinoma
September 19, 2018 - Researchers use CRISPR screen to reveal new targets in squamous cell carcinomas
September 19, 2018 - UGR to coordinate the European H2020 project focused on Smart Personalized Nutrition
September 19, 2018 - Mumps Spread Quickly at Texas Cheerleading Meets: Study
September 19, 2018 - Addressing child stunting in Pakistan is critical
September 19, 2018 - Innovative system makes hospitals, clinics accessible for people with visual impairments
September 19, 2018 - CXCL14 protein is secreted by brown adipose tissue and has beneficial effects in metabolic diseases
September 19, 2018 - Air pollution increases risk of dementia
September 19, 2018 - Inequality issues persist even under new U.S. kidney transplant allocation system
September 19, 2018 - New study reveals mechanisms that lead to cognitive decline in Type 2 diabetes
September 19, 2018 - FDA launches new comprehensive effort to educate kids about dangers of e-cigarettes
September 19, 2018 - Study reveals mechanism underlying plants’ ability to signal defense
September 19, 2018 - Researchers harness Zika virus vaccine under development to target glioblastoma
September 19, 2018 - Novel deep learning drug discovery platform gets £1 million innovation boost
September 19, 2018 - Sensor array may detect de novo Parkinson’s disease in breath
September 19, 2018 - A roadmap for the future of electronic health records
September 19, 2018 - Surprising research showing peptide adaptability may pave way to develop immunotherapies
September 19, 2018 - Amyloid β protein makes comeback as therapeutic target for Alzheimer’s disease
September 19, 2018 - Alcon expands its global support of eye care professionals through Alcon Experience Academy
September 19, 2018 - Study gives new insights into how cells leverage GPCRs to control inflammation
September 19, 2018 - Automatic relevance detection in ophthalmic surgery videos
September 19, 2018 - UNIST to accelerate discovery, development of new medicines for incurable diseases
Hospitals battle for control over fast-growing heart-valve procedure

Hospitals battle for control over fast-growing heart-valve procedure

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

To help ensure good results, federal officials limited Medicare payment only to hospitals that serve large numbers of cardiac patients.

The strategy worked. In the past seven years, more than 135,000 mostly elderly patients have undergone transcatheter aortic valve replacement, known as TAVR. And TAVR’s in-hospital mortality rate has dropped by two-thirds, to 1.5 percent.

Now, in a campaign motivated by a muddy mix of health care and business, smaller hospitals and the medical device industry are arguing that the technique should be more widely deployed. They note only about half of the nearly 1,100 hospitals offering surgical valve replacement can do TAVR. And they say current limitations discriminate against minorities and people in rural areas, forcing patients to undergo a riskier and significantly more invasive treatment — or miss getting a new valve altogether.

Hospitals that already have a TAVR franchise are fighting to stifle new competitors, saying programs that don’t do enough procedures would not provide high-quality care.

At stake is the care of thousands of patients. Half of the more than 250,000 Americans estimated each year to develop severe aortic valve stenosis — narrowing of the valve that regulates the flow of blood from the heart to the largest artery of the body — die within two years. Getting an artificial heart valve lowers that death rate to as low as 17 percent, studies show.

Also at stake is the $45,000 Medicare pays hospitals for each TAVR case — excluding the doctor’s fee. While hospitals typically make only a small profit on the procedure — partly because the device costs more than $30,000 — they benefit because each TAVR patient typically needs other cardiac services and tests that can boost the hospital’s bottom line.

In addition, offering TAVR carries a cachet that helps recruit and retain top specialists, who bring in more patients.

At a Medicare advisory committee hearing in Baltimore on July 25, both sides of the debate emphasized how they were seeking to help patients. But the economics of TAVR was ever-present given the horde of medical device and hospital officials and industry analysts in the audience.

The committee split on the issue, although a majority of members backed the continued use of volume requirements. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is expected to decide later this year whether to change its patient volume minimum for TAVR.

Dr. Jason Felger, a heart surgeon who wants his community hospital in San Angelo, Texas, to offer the procedure, said behind the fight over TAVR is protecting profit and revenue. He refers patients to hospitals more than three hours away for the procedure or, if they aren’t willing to travel, they risk their lives to undergo the conventional operation.

Hospitals that offer TAVR, he said, aren’t willing to give up the referrals they now rely on from other hospitals.

“It’s all about the money,” he said.

Improving A Hospital’s Reputation

Unlike open-heart surgery, in which the chest is cracked open to remove the unhealthy valve, TAVR involves threading a catheter tipped with a replacement valve through a blood vessel to the heart. Doctors then implant the new valve. The old valve remains but is pushed aside, and the new one takes over its work.

With this less invasive valve procedure, people can get out of the hospital within two or three days and get back to daily activities much sooner than with open-heart surgery, which typically has a six-week recovery time.

TAVR has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for people who cannot have open-heart surgery or for whom it would be risky. These include the elderly and frail and people with complications such as kidney and lung disease. But TAVR use has expanded among younger, and less sick, patients in recent years. Within the next year, the FDA is likely to approve the procedure for all patients needing a new aortic valve, industry analysts say.

TAVR does carry risks, including stroke. Patients may also need a pacemaker after the procedure to regulate heart rhythm.

The large majority of patients getting TAVR are 65 and over. The importance of Medicare’s blessing goes beyond its payments, since private insurers typically follow Medicare standards. Physicians seeking to expand use of TAVR point out that Medicare has no volume requirements for other major cardiac procedures.

The two largest TAVR medical device companies are divided on the issue. Edwards Lifesciences Corp. of Irvine, Calif., supports eliminating the minimum-patient requirements, while Minneapolis-based Medtronic favors keeping the status quo. The Advanced Medical Technology Association, or AdvaMed, an industry trade group, also supports the change.

About 50,000 patients are expected to have TAVR this year, and those numbers are forecast to double by 2020, according to American College of Cardiology and other major heart groups.

When Michael Vigil, 50, needed TAVR in May, he drove more than three hours from his home in eastern Wyoming to a hospital in Denver. Before the procedure, the oil-drilling contractor was constantly tired and out of breath — even after mundane chores at home. Vigil’s aortic valve had been damaged from radiation treatments for non-Hodgkin lymphoma decades before.

Vigil was sent home a day after the TAVR procedure. He was back at work the following week.

He said he felt more energized almost immediately after having the procedure.

“It’s worked so well, my wife wishes they dialed it back a little,” Vigil said.

Donnette Smith, president of the patient advocacy group Mended Hearts, said many patients don’t have good access to the procedure.

“Patients do not know of this option unless they walk through the right door of the right hospital,” said Smith of Huntsville, Ala. She had heart valve surgery in 1988.

Mended Hearts receives funding from device makers.

‘Experience Matters’

To gain Medicare approval for TAVR programs, hospitals have to perform annually 50 open-heart valve repairs, 400 angioplasties and 1,000 cardiac catheterizations — a procedure in which medical teams use skills similar to those needed for TAVR.

Doctors at larger hospitals say procedure volume is a good predictor for success. The American College of Cardiology and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons recommend hospitals be able to do at least 50 TAVRs each year within two years of startup. More than three-quarters of the 582 hospitals authorized by Medicare for TAVR meet that standard.

“Whether it’s playing the violin or performing heart surgery, experience matters,” said Dr. Thoralf Sundt, chief of cardiac surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Ashish Pershad, an interventional cardiologist who performs TAVR at Banner Medical Center in Phoenix, agreed that there are access issues. But he said it’s not because of a lack of programs. Rather, he said, surgeons too often don’t refer patients for it because they make more money from doing the open-heart surgical valve replacement.

“Patients are missing out on this procedure because they are not being referred, and primary care doctors lack knowledge about it,” he said.

Expanding Treatment Options

Doctors seeking a Medicare rule to widen access say there is little evidence hospitals that perform more TAVRs have lower mortality rates. As long as they can show low mortality and complications, they believe their hospitals should be able to offer the service.

“Our intention is not to lower the quality of outcomes by expanding to ‘low volume’ centers; but to provide excellent care to a larger population of patients,” Felger and his colleagues at Shannon Medical Center in San Angelo, Texas, wrote to the CMS advisory group.

Last year, Felger said, he sent a dozen patients to hospitals in Austin or Dallas for TAVR, while eight other patients opted for the open-heart surgery.

“I have patients tell me they would rather have the surgical procedure at their local hospital than traveling to another city,” he said. “They tell me ‘Let’s do this; if I die, I die.'”

Phil Galewitz: [email protected], @philgalewitz

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles