Medical Moment: A new minimally-invasive surgery repairing heart valves

Published: Jan. 17, 2023 at 6:03 PM EST
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(WNDU) - More than 5,000,000 people in the US are living with congestive heart failure.

It’s the most common diagnosis in hospitalized patients over the age of 65.

Symptoms can be intense, leaving patients unable to live normal, active lives. Now, a new procedure is giving hope to patients who were running out of options and time.

“I went through just test after test,” recalled Steven Willis. “And my heart was too big.”

Steven Willis gets emotional just thinking about what his life was like.

“It didn’t look very promising, especially when I was advised that I had a year to live,” Willis said.

“All the blood that comes from the lower body and the upper body goes through the tricuspid valve,” said Curtiss Stinis, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital.

Blood was flowing backward within Steven’s heart. Medications can work for awhile and outcomes with open heart surgery are not good.

“Tricuspid regurgitation is, I like to say, it’s one of the most ignored diseases of the heart because, until recently, we really had minimal treatments for it,” Dr. Stinis continued.

Dr. Stinis used a new transcatheter tricuspid valve replacement, or TTVR, that anchors to the walls of the existing valve.

“This can all be put in through a tiny incision in the vein, in the groin, without any type of open heart surgery,” Dr. Stinis explained.

Compared to open heart surgery, the procedure is minimally invasive, takes less time, the incision is smaller, there’s less risk of infection, and recovery time is quicker. Steven left the hospital the very next morning. His symptoms are gone, and now at 81, he is looking forward to the rest of his life.

Trials are still going on across the country, and organizers are hoping what they find from the study will lead to FDA-approval in a few years.