New procedure for heart valve replacement

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Heart valve replacement is typically an open heart procedure. However for some patients that surgery can be too risky. Now there is a less invasive fix.

Larry Rosen is a pharmacist who’s still working at age 81. But a couple of years ago he had heart failure due to a problem with his aortic valve.

“Ran out of breath quickly, couldn’t really walk very far,” he recalled.

On a scan, Rosen’s heart appears as bright white because it’s calcified and rigid. He’d had previous heart surgery, so surgeons were reluctant to take a chance on another operation.

Dr. Vijay Iyer of the Gates Vascular Institute said, “Often times they are denied the procedure or they’re turned down because of high mortality risk. And the result is they don’t get a treatment.”

But Dr. Iyer and his colleagues were working on a technique to replace the valve without surgery. Rosen was one of their first patients.

The valve they use is attached to a metal mesh, just like the stents used in coronary arteries. It’s compressed onto a catheter, and threaded through the arteries into the position of the damaged valve. They’ve done it for 78 high-risk patients, with remarkable results.

“It improved survival, even in this elderly group of patients who had significant medical comorbidities. Second, and probably more importantly, it significantly improved their quality of life. They had less symptoms of heart failure, they were less likely to get readmitted to the hospital for symptoms related to their heart,” Dr. Iyer said.

And Rosen is living proof of that success.

“I went back to work with no problem whatsoever and just functioning normally. I do shopping, laundry, chores, whatever – just like I was twenty years ago,” he said.

Without that procedure, it’s not likely Rosen would be alive today. There are many people in similar situations – with heart failure due to a damaged valve and other problems that make open-heart surgery too risky for them. They should be aware, and their physicians should be aware, that now there are alternatives.

The biggest difference is that though this procedure and open heart surgery mean five days in the hospital, with open heart surgery it takes two to four months to recover.

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