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New Ways to Save Hearts: June 1, 2012

It was unthinkable even a few years ago, a new procedure to change a faulty heart valve without open-heart surgery.

“It really is going to change the way we approach disease processes,” says Dr. Brian Hummel, a cardiothoracic surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

The surgery, referred to as TAVR, takes existing stent delivery methods and uses them to replace the heart valve.

“The standard operation was to open somebody’s chest through the sternum or occasionally through the right chest and put them on the heart lung machine. Stop their heart, open the aorta, cut out the valve, sew a new valve in, close up, and take them off the heart lung machine,” says Dr. Hummel.

Now at Lee Memorial Health System, a team of physicians can insert a catheter in the groin and thread it to the heart to deliver a new valve with an angioplasty balloon.

“We put a valve on the outside of this balloon and blow it up and it’s able to lock into place and stay there,” says Dr. Hummel.

In the same spirit of finding less invasive ways to accomplish their goals, surgeons are opening blocked arteries by taking a new route.

“Catheterization through the wrist can be used both for diagnostic, that is taking pictures to make a definitive diagnostic, but also can be used for angioplasty, or putting in coronary artery stents,” says Dr. Robert Chazal, a cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

The common approach is to go through the large artery in the groin. Going through the wrist is less traumatic and offers a speedy recovery.

“This is often an outpatient procedure, especially if it’s diagnostic. The recovery time is a quicker and certainly in terms of walking or riding a bicycle. People are more comfortable doing it the next day,” says Dr. Chazal.

These modern methods are keeping hearts beating strong.