Baptist Health Paducah TAVR program celebrates a year of firsts

October 26, 2020

TAVR offers a minimally invasive alternative to traditional open-heart surgery

(Paducah, Ky.) Oct. 19, 2020 — It has been a year of firsts for Baptist Health Paducah’s heart program.

On Oct. 22, 2019, Martin Rains, MD, and Michael Faulkner, MD, structural interventional cardiologists, and cardiothoracic surgeon Nicholas Lopez, MD, successfully performed the first TAVR procedure in the region on an 87-year-old Ballard County man. TAVR is an innovative new procedure for cardiac patients that offers a minimally invasive alternative to traditional open-heart surgery. The procedure uses a catheter to replace a failing heart valve, making it much less invasive than open-heart operations.

In August, cardiovascular surgeon Austin Ward, MD, joined the heart team, bringing with him expertise to perform procedures previously not offered in the area. In September, he led the heart team in performing the area’s first TAVR procedure through the carotid artery. Most TAVR procedures replace failing heart valves through an insertion in the groin.

The new generation of heart doctors at Baptist Health Paducah are continuing the hospital’s rich history of being the leader in cardiovascular services, starting with bringing open-heart surgery to the region in 1985 and initiating dozens of other “firsts” in cardiac care through the years.

Drs. Rains and Faulkner both grew up in western Kentucky, and chose to return home to practice with the goal of bringing TAVR to our area.

“Starting our TAVR program is a huge step forward for our patients in the region,” Dr. Faulkner said last October. “Previously, our patients have had to travel long distances to get this type of procedure. This is a monumental milestone for us.”

Dr. Ward, who also grew up in Paducah, had a strong desire to return home and provide world-class health care to his community.

“I feel like I hit the jackpot with the chance to come back to my hometown and do what I love every day,” Dr. Ward said. “I love that every patient presents a new challenge or problem to solve. This is where I have the opportunity to use my hands to influence physiology and outcomes every day. It is an honor and privilege to be trusted with the cardiothoracic surgical care of patients and I am thankful for the opportunity to provide world-class care without patients having to travel out of our community.”

Dr. Ward specializes in cardiothoracic surgery, treating valvular and ischemic heart disease, as well as diseases of the lungs. He focuses on valve repair and replacement, including minimally invasive valve surgery and transcatheter treatments, coronary artery bypass surgery, including multiple arterial grafting, and minimally invasive treatment of lung diseases. He also offers the area’s only robotic thoracic surgery program for treatment of lung nodules and cancers.

To learn more about TAVR, visit