Device may help more people with damaged heart valves avoid surgery

April 12, 2019 06:05 PM

Surgery for patients with bad heart valves may soon become a thing of the past. 

A quicker, easier and potentially safer way to fix damaged valves is becoming more popular for a wider range of patients. The newer technique involves an expandable valve inserted through a catheter.


For years these catheter-based devices have only been used in high-risk patients who weren't healthy enough for surgery, but new research in The New England Journal of Medicine shows they can initially be effective in low-risk patients as well.

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An expandable valve is guided through a catheter into a blood vessel in the leg up to the heart. Once it's placed inside the damaged valve, it expands and opens up.

Dr. Pawan Hari at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital said they are starting to use the new valves more often, and he expects the trend to continue.

"The newer valves are going to lead to shorter hospital stays, quicker discharges and better quality of life," he said.

At Park Nicollet, they use two different versions of the valves, one made by Edwards Lifesciences, the other by Medtronic which is headquartered in the Twin Cities. 

The long-term effects of both brands are still being studied to determine if the catheter-based valves hold up as well as surgical ones.

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Ellen Galles

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