The FDA has approved the first heart valve replacement procedure that does not involve open heart surgery.
Instead of opening the patient's chest, the doctor inserts the new heart valve by threading a catheter through a vein in the patient's leg. Here's a video of how that works :
(video courtesy Edwards Lifesciences LLC, the maker of the valve)
Barnes-Jewish Hospital was one of 23 centers nationwide to participate in the medical trial that led to the FDA approval.
Cardiologist Dr. Alan Zajarias was part of the valve team that tested the procedure at Barnes.
He says the procedure has some risks, but most patients do very well. “Their survival after valve replacement is much improved, they feel better, they feel stronger," Zajarias said. "So it’s very, very motivating for us to have something approved that actually provides so much benefit.”
Zajarias says that right now, the procedure is only approved for high risk patients who are not eligible for surgery.
"Traditional open heart surgery for aortic stenosis is still the gold standard, or the best way to actually replace a valve," Zajarias said. "But for patients who are not operative candidates, this is a new option that is now available."