Less risky treatment for heart ‘wear and tear’

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Cardiac patients at St George Private Hospital now have access to a less invasive alternative to open-heart surgery. 

The Sydney hospital has started offering Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) for people suffering from aortic stenosis – characterised by narrowing of the aortic valve opening.

Interventional cardiologist Dr James Roy said the condition is common for people in their 70s and 80s, and is caused by a lifetime’s wear and tear of the aortic valve.

“If the aortic valve is severely narrowed, there is often strain on the heart. The typical symptoms from this are shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting,” Dr Roy said.

Traditional open-heart treatment is more invasive and recovery often requires five to seven days in hospital followed by a few weeks at home.

With TAVI, the average stay in hospital is three days, Dr Roy said.

The procedure allows specialists to gain access through the groin and replace the valve through the femoral artery. Historically, it is used in patients for whom open-heart surgery is considered risky.

“There is a lower risk of stroke and a quicker recovery time that is a huge advance for patients who are unable to be treated with surgery. The trade-off is a slightly higher risk of needing a pacemaker,” Dr Roy said.

TAVI was first performed in France in 2002, but has recently become more common thanks to advancements in technology and better access to it.

Its introduction at St George Private Hospital came in the lead-up to Heart Week 2019 (28 April 2019-May 4 2019). This year’s focus is encouraging people to understand their heart health by having simple checks, thus reducing their risk of future problems.

“Heart checks are important so potential issues can be dealt with in a controlled and well-planned manner, rather than letting a condition get too serious,” Dr Roy said. 

Read more: Heart Week – Get to know your vital organ

Read more: Emergency heart patient has landmark bypass

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