SEATTLE--A few days earlier, Victoria Sencerbox would have been wiped out by a walk down the hospital corridor. But two days after heart surgery, "I couldn't be happier. I really couldn't be happier," she said.

Victoria is the latest patient to undergo a breakthrough combination of therapies: a less invasive heart surgery and something called conscious sedation. Instead of general anesthesia, she was groggy but awake while doctors operated on her heart.

"If a patient wants to be awake, they can, and we can talk to them, interact with them and at the same time make sure they're pain free," explained Dr Sameer Gafoor of the Swedish Heart and Vascular Institute. "People are up earlier, they have less risk of pneumonia, less risk of infection, mobilized and getting back to what they want to do at a quicker fashion."

Victoria was a high risk patient, and open heart surgery wasn't an option. Instead, her surgeons used a procedure called TAVR, replacing her aortic valve without cutting open her chest.

"This one is delivered through one of the blood vessels in the body," described Dr Patrick Ryan. "It gets inserted through the existing valve, the native valve, which is diseased, gets pushed out of the way in essence and the new valve is deployed."

While that was happening, surgeons could better evaluate Victoria. Her mother died of a stroke after heart surgery. But Victoria's recovery was completely different.

"Oh my gosh, the surgery was a little bit after 11 and by 3 o'clock I was talking. It was great. It was great. No pain," she said.

No pain, and hardly a delay getting back to life. Two days after surgery, Victoria was headed home.

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