Monday, April 24, 2006

Alternatives to open heart surgery

A while back there was news on "closed heart surgery". How would you like to live in a world where you could go home the next day after a valve replacement?

This technique is very interesting. Cardiologist are yet again, taking over the work of the surgeons. You see, if an aortic valve is bad and need to be replaced, it used to be the cardiac surgeon who would sow a new valve to replace the old, using the heart-lung machine. This required 1 week stay in hospital, opening the chest and the added risk, short and longterm.

What they are saying is that we now have artificial valves, all pre-mounted on the end of a catheter, in a crimp down state. This tube like device is then threaded up the leg artery, using X-rays as a guide/monitor. Once across the defective aortic valve, the crimped down artificial valve is expanded to full size, crushing the patient's own (native) valve underneath. It is experimental but looks good for patients with leaking aortic valve.

However, there are still alot of issues. What is going to happen to the native valve? We are in fact creating an obstruction across the aortic valve. What is the longterm? Will crimping damage the valve? etc. So we don't yet know. What we know is that the surgeons may have yet less work to do.

Those wishing to track this further should google percutaneous implantation of the aortic valve.

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