WEDNESDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- For patients who are too sick to withstand surgery to treat a narrowed aortic valve, a new and less invasive heart procedure might keep them alive, researchers say.
As many as 300,000 Americans suffer from aortic stenosis, a condition that prevents the heart's aortic valve from fully opening and sending blood back into the heart. Because of age or poor health, about 30 percent of those with aortic stenosis can't undergo surgery, the researchers say.
"Aortic stenosis is a high prevalence disease in the elderly, and with an aging population it's becoming more frequent," said lead researcher Dr. Martin B. Leon, director of the Center for Interventional Vascular Therapy at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.
"This is truly a lifesaving procedure for those patients who cannot have surgery and who have this terrible disease," Leon said.
Without a valve replacement, which requires surgery to open up the chest, about 50 percent of patients with aortic stenosis die within two or three years of diagnosis.
For the study, published in the Sept. 23 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, 358 patients with severe aortic stenosis who could not undergo replacement-valve surgery were randomly assigned to either standard therapy or a new procedure. The patients' average age was 83, and 20 percent were 90 or older, Leon said.
Standard therapy included medication and a procedure called balloon aortic valvuloplasty, which provides some relief but does not alter long-term outcomes.
The new procedure -- transcatheter aortic-valve implantation (TAVI) -- involves routing a large catheter through the femoral artery in the patient's groin into the heart. When the catheter reaches the aortic valve, a balloon inflates and opens the valve. Doctors then implant a cow's heart
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