Duff's Story- TAVR

Duff Rice is living a full, active life well into his 90s thanks to the expert care given to him by Virginia Heart’s Structural Heart team. He is back to playing tennis several times a week, even winning a gold medal at the Senior Olympics after recovering fully from a minimally-invasive aortic valve replacement (TAVR) just over a year ago.

Duff Rice may live in a retirement community but he is hardly the retiring type.  

In 2023, Duff took home a gold medal in men’s singles tennis at the Senior Olympics in the over-90 bracket. At 92, he hits the courts five days a week when the weather is good (two days a week during the indoor season). 

When he found himself feeling breathless and lacking energy one summer day on the courts, he initially passed it off to dehydration. But when the symptoms persisted, he visited his primary care physician who ordered an EKG. The test confirmed that Duff’s aortic valve was failing.

He immediately made an appointment with Hazim El-Haddad, M.D., Virginia Heart’s structural heart cardiologist. Dr. El-Haddad confirmed that Duff had aortic stenosis, the most common type of heart valve disease. It affects 1 in 8 people over the age of 75. Duff’s aortic valve was not fully opening like it should, forcing his heart to work harder to deliver blood to his body.  Dr. El-Haddad recommended Duff undergo a procedure called a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

During the minimally invasive procedure, Dr. El-Haddad guided a catheter equipped with a fully collapsible replacement valve through Duff’s groin to his aortic valve. Once in place, the new valve was expanded to push the damaged valve tissue out of the way. The new valve allows blood to be more easily pumped out of Duff’s heart and to his body.

Dr. El-Haddad performed the TAVR on Duff in September 2022 at Inova Fairfax Hospital. Duff passed with flying colors and was home the next day. After participating in a Cardiac Rehab program and doing regular follow-ups with Dr. El-Haddad, Duff is back to playing and instructing tennis and feels great.

“The smartest thing I ever did was participate in the cardiac rehab program,” Duff said. “In addition to the exercises, it offered classes on a variety of things that heart patients should know. The professionalism of everyone at Virginia Heart was outstanding.”  

“Mr. Rice is a great example of how advances in cardiac interventions can help patients get back to living fully without the risks and lengthy recovery associated with major surgery,” Dr. El-Haddad said.