Advanced heart valve procedure changes Coon Valley woman’s life

Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 6:28 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 28, 2022 at 10:20 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A Coon Valley mother was able to keep an active lifestyle - and her life, thanks to an innovative heart valve procedure she was able to receive at UW Health.

Holly Herlitzke was born with a heart defect that caused her aortic valve to narrow over time, leaving her with two choices. One of these choices would involve a mechanical valve placed into her heart that would require medications for the rest of her life and make physical activity challenging.

The second option, recommended by her cardiologist, took her to UW Health. The “Ross” procedure replaces a person’s damaged aortic valve with their own pulmonary valve, then the pulmonary valve gets replaced with a deceased donor’s pulmonary valve. Following proper recovery of this procedure, a person can expect a normal life span, good blood flow and a low risk of blood clots.

According to UW Health cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Petros Anagnostopoulos, Herlitzke was the perfect candidate for this surgery.

“The Ross procedure is perfect for active adults under 50, in part because it does not often require medications like blood thinners that can make exercise and other daily activities more challenging or risky,” Anagnostopoulos said. “And we are one of the busiest programs in the Midwest for this surgery.”

After being referred to UW Health by her own cardiologist in La Crosse, Herlitzke chose to have the procedure done in Madison. The UW Health Congenital Heart Program is considered a specialized referral for this procedure, so patients from across the United States come in for the surgery.

The procedure took place in December 2021. Since then, Herlitzke continues to live an active lifestyle with her family and has started to run as well. She hopes to run a 5K sometime in 2022.

Visit to learn more about the Ross procedure.

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