AURORA (CBS4) – Doctors in Colorado are now extending the lives of active seniors by replacing diseased heart valves through a tiny incision.

CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh met 96-year-old Bill Birney, who is now heart healthy after having heart surgery in December. But it wasn’t traditional open heart surgery. The procedure had him out of the hospital and back home in just days.

A month ago, Birney had a calcified heart valve replaced at the University of Colorado Hospital. Dr. John Messenger inserted a new valve to get the blood flowing normally, but the way he did it was remarkable.

“They did it by the procedure of going up the groin and just pushing it in,” Birney said.

There was no open heart surgery, no lengthy hospital stay, and no painful recovery.

“It’s really a revolutionary technology,” Messenger said.

The procedure is called “transcatheter aortic valve replacement,” or TAVR. Doctors insert a catheter through an artery in the groin and they slowly open up the blocked valve with a balloon. They then insert a new device and inflate it.

“The valve is a stainless steel cage with a cow valve sutured inside of it,” Messenger said. “Once we relieve the obstruction their heart function improves dramatically within days, within minutes to days, actually.”

TAVR is for patients deemed inoperable for traditional open heart surgery, such as 70-, 80- and 90-year-olds like Birney.

Currently, TAVR is only Food and Drug Administration approved for people who are high risk by being too frail or ill. But Messenger is beginning a second clinical trial to study the procedure with a new smaller valve and with medium to high-risk patients.

There are risks with the procedure, including stroke and bleeding, but the risks are lower than doing nothing for the patients.

LINK: Valve Clinic at UCH


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