‘Parachutes’ make heart surgery safer

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A novel blood filtering device has added a new layer of safety to heart surgery.

While advancements such as TAVI (Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation) have provided minimally-invasive alternatives to open-heart procedures, some patients are still at risk of post-surgery strokes.

TAVI operations to treat severe aortic stenosis sometimes result in pieces of calcified heart valve or other debris breaking loose and travelling to the brain, blocking blood flow.

However, surgeons at Sydney Adventist Hospital have started using an anti-stroke protection device that acts as a safety net during TAVI procedures to free up such narrowed valves.

The Sentinel Cerebral Protection System is designed to capture embolic debris dislodged before it can reach the brain. 

The filters are attached to a wire, inserted into the valves and inflated to provide a barrier to solid objects in the blood.

“These devices are like little parachutes with very fine mesh that allow blood flow, but these nets catch any clots or calcium or tissue that is liberated during the new valve implantation,” said cardiothoracic specialist Dr Brian Plunkett.

Dr Plunkett is one of several surgeons at the hospital – known as the San – using the new filter system, which he said is another step in over 10 years of evolution in TAVI-related technology.

“Many patients are mobile and active, and stroke would be a major risk to them,” he added. 

 “We are all excited at the prospect of adding anything to our armoury to reduce stroke risk in any TAVI deployment.”

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