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Balloon Valve May Be Alternative to Open-Heart Surgery
Date:11/4/2007

It props open closed aortas in older patients, research suggests

SUNDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Older, high-risk heart patients with narrowed aortas who typically need open-heart surgery might someday have a new, less invasive option -- an implanted, balloon-expandable aortic valve.

The balloon is inserted percutaneously (through the skin), placed across the problem valve and then inflated, experts said. In a new study, the procedure -- not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration -- showed real health benefits for up to two years.

The research is to be presented Sunday at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

"The percutaneous balloon expandable aortic valve insertion provides a safe and sustained alternative for high-risk patients with severe aortic stenosis [closure]," said lead researcher Dr. Sanjeevan Pasupati, who was an interventional fellow at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, when the study was conducted.

"In our first 100 high-risk patients, the intra procedural mortality was only 2 percent with minimal morbidity," Pasupati said. "Our long-term survival is promising, with 70 percent and 60 percent at one and two years, respectively. This procedure is here to stay."

Other experts stressed caution, however.

"This is a very exciting frontier for us in terms of being able to potentially fix these with percutaneous approach versus putting patients on a heart-lung machine," said Dr. John P. Erwin III, an associate professor of internal medicine at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and a cardiologist with Scott & White Hospital in Temple. However, "this is still considered to be a high-risk procedure that is not quite ready for prime time at this point," he said.

According to the American Heart Association, aortic stenosis involves a blockage of the heart's aortic valve. The aorta is
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