New valve, no surgery!

So you need a new heart valve. Oh, boy. I bet you are just looking forward to the prospects of open heart surgery: having your chest split open, the pain when you cough (and if you think coughing hurts, just wait until your first post surgical sneeze!) and spending two to three months recovering. Or maybe you are like me… after all the problems with the scar tissue tearing and nearly bleeding out during my last operation, the docs aren’t going to go back in my chest any time soon. So what now?

The answer used to be “Just do the best you can,” because there were no other options. But now inserting a heart valve via catheterization is becoming more and more common – New York’s Presbyterian Hospital has implanted its 100th heart valve – and they never split anyone’s chest!

Before you pick up the phone and call the hospital, there is one problem – all 100 were done as part of a clinical trial. Most likely, they’ll have to turn you down, because these are tests of new valves carried out under controlled conditions. But every time they implant a valve, hopefully they learn something new. Presbyterian is replacing Aortic valves; a Pulmonary valve replacement was introduced a few weeks ago. It’s new to us, but they have been using it in Europe for some time.

So perhaps one day – not too far into the future – valve replacement by catheter will be the way things are done!

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One Response to “New valve, no surgery!”

  1. Linda D. Says:

    Seattle Children’s has been doing this for awhile, especially with pulmonary valves. They’ve already done some. They need a “landing zone” of a certain size (I was told 16 mm diameter) to do it. When Gabby eventually needs her pulmonary valve, they will probably have to do the first one open heart, but they can do it in such a way that subsequent ones can be done in the cath lab. Since she will also need a stent removed & her left PA repaired at the same time, they’ll do it all at once. Hopefully not for another 6 or 7 years.

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