‘Life-changing’ option for heart patients

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The Wesley Hospital is the first in Queensland to trial a “life-changing” new minimally-invasive procedure for patients with leaky heart valves.

A severe leak in the mitral valve – which lets blood flow from one chamber of the heart to another – is often found in people with cardiac failure.

The standard treatment involves repairing or replacing the valve using invasive surgery on the stopped heart with a heart-lung machine.

However, a new technique being trialled as part of a world-first study allows the mitral valve to be replaced through a vein in the leg without having to open the patient’s chest. 

“The results of this surgery could literally be life-changing for hundreds of Queenslanders with mitral valve disease,” said Dr Anthony Camuglia, who performed the new procedure at The Wesley with fellow GenesisCare cardiologist Professor Greg Scalia and their team.

Dr Scalia said the technique was a major step forward in heart care treatment globally.

“Heart failure with mitral disease is a serious medical condition, with patients suffering severe breathlessness and poor quality of life, as well as a high risk of death.

“We are excited to see where the rest of the study leads us, and we are confident that it will deliver important findings to improve outcomes for patients with mitral valve disease,” he said.

The HighLife study is for people aged 18 and above with moderate to severe mitral regurgitation, who are unable to have open-heart surgery.

The procedure to have the new valve inserted requires an overnight hospital stay, followed by in-clinic check-ups at 30 days, three/six/12 months and annually up to five years.

General manager Sean Hubbard said the Brisbane private hospital’s expert cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and imaging specialists were proud to be leading the way with this state-first surgery.

“Our Structural Heart Program offers access to the latest research and innovations, so that we can focus on lower risk and better outcomes for our patients,” he said.

The Wesley’s Cardiac Service is also celebrating the fifth anniversary of its first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure.

Since 2015, the multidisciplinary team has performed more than 300 surgeries for Queensland patients suffering from severe aortic stenosis – which causes a dangerous restriction of blood flow. 

Lyn Smith, TAVR co-ordinator at The Wesley Hospital's cardiac clinic

TAVR co-ordinator Lyn Smith, who first joined The Wesley as a nurse in 1996, has been helping the specialist teams and every patient since day one. 

“I often still get phone calls and photos years down the track, with former patients climbing the Great Wall of China or going back to their Red Hat activities, and I stay in touch with their families,” she said. 

“I’m lucky the position allows that to happen, and to be part of these patients’ lives. Having a contact point helps allay a lot of fears – things that you and I take for granted.

“Otherwise they may have been readmitted or not improve because of the angst that is there," she said.

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