Open-heart surgery is the gold standard for patients with severe aortic stenosis.
However, a newly published report in the New England Journal of Medicine confirms what researchers had earlier suspected.
A new minimally invasive technique to repair heart valves is saving the lives of patients who are too sick for traditional surgery.
Ninety-five-year-old Harry Forbes and his wife enjoy taking care of the flowers on the patio outside their Dallas apartment.
Harry says, "I feel excellent."
Until recently, Harry could barely walk across the room. He suffered from severe aortic stenosis. Because of his age, doctors say he was not a candidate for open-heart surgery.
Now, Harry can walk half a mile and lift weights.
Harry took part in a clinical trial using a procedure called TAVR, transcatheter aortic valve replacement.
During the procedure, doctors operate through a small, thin tube, inserted in the patient's leg. The artificial valve begins working immediately.
Doctor Robert Stoler, a cardiologist at Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital, says, “The patient doesn't have to have their entire chest opened up, he or she doesn't have to go on the heart and lung machine.”
Harry has no doubt TAVR saved his life.
"It is miraculous," he says.
One of the greatest benefits of the procedure is that the recovery time is to cut down from several months to a few hours or days.
Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital in Dallas is one of 45 national sites taking part in the clinical study.
TOPIC: Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement
OPEN HEART SURGERY: Open heart surgery is any surgery involving the opening of the chest in order to replace or repair faulty parts of the heart including valves, muscles and arteries. Open heart surgery is often used as a treatment for coronary heart disease which occurs when the heart's arteries become clogged. If blood can't flow properly to the heart, a heart attack could occur. When open heart surgery has been completed, lifestyle changes must be made in order to prevent further blockages from occurring. Doctors recommend eating a healthy diet, keep blood pressure under control and absolutely no smoking. (Source: http://www.healthline.com/health/open-heart-surgery#Overview1)
RISKS: Though results are typically successful and well-received, there are still many risk factors that stem from having open heart surgery. Some minor reported issues have included bleeding, infection, fever and swelling. The more serious risks include damage to vital organs (kidneys, liver and lungs), stroke and death. (Source: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hs/risks.html)
NEW TECHNOLOGY: A new alternative to open heart surgery can give patients with aortic stenosis life-saving results with a much faster recovery time. The transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, is a minimally invasive surgery that places a bioprosthetic valve into the heart through a catheter in a small tube inserted into a vein in the patient's groin or rib area. There is no surgical removal of the hardened valve. Instead, the newly implanted heart valve expands and pushes the old one out of the way, allowing the blood to flow properly to the heart once more. Currently, most patients to receive TAVR have been in their 70s and 80s and had existing medical conditions that made this procedure the safest for them. TAVR procedures have shown a significantly higher rate of survival at one year than surgical aortic-valve replacement. (Source: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/HeartValveProblemsandDisease/What-is-TAVR_UCM_450827_Article.jsp and http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1400590)