Elderly patients have life-saving synthetic heart valves fitted in world-first surgery
11:39 GMT, 19 June 2012
Doctors have conducted a world-first medical procedure in which heart valves are replaced without patients needing to undergo open heart surgery.
The new life-saving treatment could be widely available in two years after Australian surgeons conducted the first successful trial.
The treatment allows surgeons to replace the aortic valve in patients suffering from narrowing of the artery, a condition known as aortic stenosis.
Professor Ian Meredith explains the new procedure to treat 'a very common problem in the elderly'
During the 90 minute operation a synthetic heart valve, called a lotus valve, is passed through the groin and into the heart, before it opens up like a flower. It is unique because it can be withdrawn and repositioned if necessary during the surgery.
It was trialled on eleven elderly Australian women at Melbourne's St Vincent's Hospital and the Royal Adelaide Hospital.
Research leader Professor Ian Meredith, who is Director at Melbourne's Monash Medical Clinic, said the technique marked a 'huge new step' in treating the heart condition.
'This is a tremendous start and it really is a major cultural shift in the way we are going to do heart valve replacements in the future,' he added to News.com.au.
The aortic valve is the major valve controlling blood flow into the aorta
The aortic valve is the major valve controlling blood flow into the aorta, the largest artery in the body. It opens 100,000 times a day to allow blood through.
In aortic stenosis, which affects older people, the valve has calcified causing it to become stiff so that it doesn't open properly.
Prof Meredith said: 'When you have severe aortic valve narrowing and you become breathless as a consequence of that, more than half the people won't survive 12 months.
'Only about a third will survive up to two years.'
The technique will now be trialled in 16 hospitals in Germany, France, the UK and Australia.
Prof Meredith said: 'This will have a significant impact on patients all around the world because this is a very common problem in the elderly.'