Medical Moment: A new technique repairing heart valves

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 5:40 PM EST
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(WNDU) - Your heart has four valves, which keep your blood flowing in the right direction.

If one doesn’t work correctly, it can put you at higher risk for stroke or congestive heart failure. More than 182,000 people have a faulty valve replaced each year. But what if your replacement needs to be replaced?

The surgery can be risky, even life-threatening. That’s why a new, less invasive technique is repairing, not replacing leaky valves.

Life’s a day at the beach for Sidney Baer and his wife Michelle now, but the last few years have felt more like a hurricane.

“I had a sudden death cardiac arrest,” Baer recalled. “Thankfully, my wife was around the corner and was able to give me CPR.”

Baer had a quadruple bypass followed by more open heart surgery to plug a leaky mitral valve.

“Every time the heart tries to pump the blood out of the heart into the big aorta, almost 30 to 40% of it is actually leaking through that valve,” said Siddharth Wayangankar, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Baptist Health.

That’s when Baer was faced with a third open heart surgery, but repeat valve replacements can be risky.

“Basically, was one looking for something to avoid a third surgery, which, to be honest with you, very few surgeons in the world would even consider it,” said Dr. Wayangankar.

Baptist Health Interventional Cardiologist Siddharth Wayangankar usually referred to as Dr. Sidd, decided to repair, not replace, Baer’s valve. He used an innovative technique called PVL closure to place a catheter in a small vein in the patient’s leg to deliver a plug that repairs the prior valve.

“So, we have to go out of the box, think out of the box, use out-of-the-box tools to close them,” Dr. Sidd said.

The first two plugs didn’t work. It was on to plan C.

“Finally, I had to use a bigger device that’s used in a little bit of bigger kids to close the defect, and that worked great,” Dr. Sidd explained.

And thanks to Dr. Sidd, Sidney is getting stronger, and soaking up all that life has to offer.

“It’s a miracle that he’s alive,” Michelle Baer said.

Compared to traditional replacement surgery, the repair means less recovery time, lower risk of infection, a shorter hospital stay, and smaller incisions and scars.