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SGMC Celebrates Success of New Heart Valve Program

Posted on: February 23rd, 2023
SGMC’s Structural Heart team welcomed TAVR patients and their loved ones for breakfast on February 22.

South Georgia Medical Center celebrated the success of its newest cardiac procedure by reuniting patients with the healthcare professionals responsible for its launch.  

Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Randall Brown kicked off the event by commending those involved in the development of SGMC’s Structural Heart Center, which officially opened in May of 2022.  

“The collaborative dedication between our administration, medical staff, and hospital staff in the development and execution of the TAVR/Structural Heart Program has been incredible,” said Dr. Brown. “This collaboration signifies SGMC’s commitment to world-class cardiac care.” 

The Structural Heart Center allows patients experiencing heart valve issues to collaborate with a specialized healthcare team to determine treatment options available–which now includes the possibility of minimally invasive procedures.  

This expert team includes Dr. Brown, Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Luke Seibolt, and Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Kelly Blackmon, who serves as the valve clinic coordinator. They work in collaboration with other cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons on staff at SGMC. The team also works with referring physicians from other communities. 

Dr. Seibolt and Dr. Brown performed the first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) at SGMC in May and have since completed 20 of them. This procedure replaces a dysfunctional aortic valve via bilateral catheters, rather than traditional open heart surgery and chest incision. Benefits include a smaller incision, lower risk of complications, shorter hospitalization (usually overnight), and rapid recovery with a return to normal activities in a few weeks. 

Not all patients who undergo evaluation qualify for TAVR, and some patients are best treated with a surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR).  After the complete evaluation, the Structural Heart Team, along with the patient, make the best treatment decision. 

A handful of patients and their loved ones returned to SGMC on Wednesday to reconnect and share a breakfast with the expansive team who made their new valve implantations a reality. Multidisciplinary team members included the structural heart team, open heart team, cardiac cath lab, hybrid room, cardiac intensive care unit, radiology, echo, perfusion, anesthesia, quality, cardiology, cardiac surgery clinic, administration, marketing, and physician outreach.  

Also in attendance was CJ McGibany, the liaison from Medtronic, the company that analyzes the diagnostics and hand-selects the proper valve and implantation plan for each patient. 

Attendees took the opportunity to share their experience, and most importantly their gratitude, with those involved in their care.  

Dr. Seibolt shared that the program took two years to operationalize and its subsequent positive outcomes are a direct result of the hard work, leadership, and dedication of the team to providing collaborative and cutting-edge care.  

Blackmon shared that her patients are really more like family. As a heart survivor and someone who has experienced open-heart surgery, she is extremely passionate about helping others overcome their cardiac issues. As the Valve Clinic Coordinator, she coordinates the entire patient experience, from evaluation, testing, scheduling, and aftercare. 

Dr. Brown, Dr. Seibolt, and Blackmon thanked the patients and their families for trusting SGMC and the structural heart team with their cardiac care. 

SGMC has the region’s only open-heart program, structural heart center, and electrophysiology program. To learn more about SGMC’s heart and vascular programs, visit