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Device Avoids Open-Heart Surgery When Artificial Valve Fails

Inserting new valve within the valve might help high-risk patients, researchers say

FRIDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News) -- If an artificial heart valve derived from a cow or pig fails to work properly, researchers say implanting a mechanical valve inside the artificial valve could be an option for high-risk patients.

"Once expanded and opened, the new valve opens and functions similarly to the patient's own valve. The advantage is that failing surgical valves can be replaced without the need for open-heart surgery," study lead author Dr. John G. Webb, medical director of Interventional Cardiology and Interventional Research at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, Canada, explained in an Ameruican Heart Association news release.

Webb and colleagues report on 24 high-risk patients who underwent surgery that transplanted a new artificial valve into the existing artificial one. The valves were inserted through a catheter -- either via a tiny incision between the ribs, or through a leg blood vessel -- and expanded with the help of balloons that pushed the old valves away.

The strategy isn't appropriate in all cases. Still, "patients may recover more rapidly, and the concerns about major surgery are reduced," Webb said.

The researchers report that the traditional treatment -- a new open-heart operation -- is very risky.

The study was reported April 12 in the journal Circulation.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on heart valve disease.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, April 12, 2010

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