WEDNESDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- For elderly patients with a heart valve disease known as aortic stenosis, a procedure called a transcatheter aortic-valve implantation appears safe and effective, French researchers say.
Transcatheter aortic-valve implantation is a less invasive way of replacing the heart's aortic valve than traditional open-heart surgery. The procedure involves passing a replacement valve through a leg or shoulder artery and advancing it until it reaches the aortic valve, taking its place. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the technique in 2011.
"Surgical aortic valve replacement is the definitive therapy for severe symptomatic aortic stenosis," said study co-author Dr. Martine Gilard, of the department of cardiology at Brest University Hospital in France. And transcatheter aortic-valve implantation "is a new therapeutic option for these patients," he said.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Monday it would cover the cost of the implantation, provided it is conducted by experienced surgeons in hospitals approved to perform the procedure. The agency estimates that 30 percent of Americans age 65 and older have aortic valve stenosis, the most common heart valve disease, or a related condition.
In aortic stenosis, the aortic valve doesn't open all the way, which reduces blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. Severe forms can cause light-headedness and fainting.
For the study, which is scheduled to be published in the May 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers evaluated data from a national registry of more than 3,100 French patients, with an average age of 82, who underwent the less invasive procedure from January 2010 to October 2011.
All the patients showed symptoms of aortic stenosis, and were considered at high risk for valve-replacement surgery.
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