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GMC surgical team implants 100th Medtronic CoreValve in Scranton man

CONTACT:  Mike Ferlazzo: 570-214-7410, 515-450-2908 (c),
Dec. 19, 2013


DANVILLE, Pa. – On Tuesday, Dec. 3, a combined interventional cardiology and cardiovascular surgical team at Geisinger Medical Center successfully implanted its 100th Medtronic CoreValve into Thomas Simrell, 81, of Scranton. The minimally invasive surgery, known as Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), replaces the aortic valve through a catheter instead of an open heart procedure, which was previously required.

Before the procedure, Simrell didn’t have the energy to stay awake after 10 hours of sleep because of his aortic stenosis – a narrowing of the blood- and oxygen-supplying aortic valve. But on the morning after receiving his CoreValve implant, Simrell got up and walked four times around his floor at GMC’s Hospital for Advanced Medicine (HfAM) – about a quarter mile. He walked it six more times later that day before staying up late to watch television. By the next day, he walked out of the hospital as a new man.

“I feel much, much better, but I can’t realize the work the Geisinger team did on me because I don’t feel any pain,” said Simrell, who has been married to his wife, Helen, for 61 years and has nine children, 33 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. “They just did a wonderful job. And now instead of living two more years like my cardiologist said, it’s hopefully going to be 10.”

In April 2011, GMC began participating in the Medtronic CoreValve® U.S. Clinical Trial, which is evaluating the new, non-surgical alternative to open-heart surgery for patients with severe aortic stenosis. Geisinger is one of three leading U.S. hospitals participating in this trial.

Kimberly Skelding, M.D. interventional cardiologist, has led the 100 TAVR procedures at GMC. She says the successful milestone has been reached because of a partnership between the cardiovascular surgical team, the anesthesia team, the Advanced Practitioner team, cardiology colleagues and fellows, the cardiac catheterization lab and echo staff, the research coordinators and the HfAM nursing staff.  She states this procedure cannot be done without these groups working as well-oiled machine.

Last month, Dr. Jeff Popma, the national principal investigator, presented initial data on the one-year outcomes for the patients who received CoreValve in the clinical trial that Geisinger participates in at The Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics (TCT) conference – the world's largest educational meeting specializing in interventional vascular medicine. Dr. Skelding reports that the outcomes for our patients are beating the national average on all fronts. And she says the patients are pleased with their care in the process.

“Our patients who come back for their clinical visits cannot speak highly enough about their care in Geisinger Health System,” Dr. Skelding said. “Their stories about their nursing care, the coordinators going above and beyond for them and their families and how their lives have been changed due to this new technology have been heartwarming, inspiring and simply unbelievable!”

Simrell is now one of them. And the honorary grand marshall of the 2010 Scranton St. Patrick’s Day Parade looks forward to his prolonged life because of it.

About Geisinger Health System
Geisinger Health System is an integrated health services organization widely recognized for its innovative use of the electronic health record, and the development of innovative care models such as ProvenHealth Navigator® and ProvenCare®. As the nation’s largest rural health services organization, Geisinger serves more than 2.6 million residents throughout 44 counties in central and northeastern Pennsylvania. The physician-led system is comprised of more than 20,800 employees, including a 1,000-member multi-specialty group practice, seven hospital campuses, two research centers and a 448,000-member health plan, all of which leverage an estimated $6.1 billion positive impact on the Pennsylvania economy. The health system and the health plan have repeatedly garnered national accolades for integration, quality and service. In addition to fulfilling its patient care mission, Geisinger has a long-standing commitment to medical education, research and community service. For more information, visit, or follow the latest Geisinger news and more on Twitter and  Facebook.

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Thomas Simrell (front row, third from left), is surrounded by the Geisinger Medical Center team that successfully implanted its 100th Medtronic CoreValve® into him. Front Row (L to R): Joyce Burnside, M.D.; Kimberly Skelding, M.D.; Thomas Simrell; Joseph Stemm, M.D. Back Row: Susan Gearhart, R.N.; Valeriec Bucher; Rachael Oravitz, R.N.; Michael Doll, PAC; Brian Burgess; Heather Zimmerman, RCIS; Kathy Phillips; Elizabeth Truxall, RCIS; Amy Temple, R.N.; Kelley Laughlin, RCIS; Joyce Roberts, RCIS; James Roberts, RCIS; Thomas Bules, CRNP; Rachel Oravich, R.N.; and Dale Gustitus, CRNP.