Helping People Have A Heart
January 29, 2014

Helping People Have A Heart

I will admit that the very thought of open-heart surgery scares me. Now, I am not normally very squeamish, especially compared to one of my cousins who faints at the very sight of blood. I worked too long as a Developmental Service Provider to have any reason to shy away from blood, but the idea of someone opening me up and messing around with one of the most important organs in my body just weirds me out. Brain surgery is much the same. Do not get me wrong, though. If it were a choice of life or death, or even higher quality of life, I would gladly submit to such a procedure. It is just one of those things that gets under my skin. This is why as new medical treatments are found and tested, many of which are much more minimally invasive, I am always glad to hear about them. Minimally invasive treatments have quicker recovery times, on average, and involve much less poking around in your insides. It is hard to imagine a minimally invasive heart procedure, though. I mean, how are you supposed to tinker around with the heart without opening someone up? Well, call me a believer in modern miracles, because minimally invasive heart procedures are now a thing.

On January 22, 2014, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) became the first institution in the United States to implant the new CoreValve System into one of their patients. Only given FDA approval the week prior, the implant’s advanced design was made to serve a wide range of severe aortic stenosis patients. Aortic stenosis is when calcium deposits cause the aortic valve of the heart to become stenotic, which means abnormally narrow, so that it cannot open and close as it should. This decreases blood flow between the heart and the rest of the body which causes the heart to weaken and can cause fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, fainting, and unless treated, have a 50 percent risk of death within a single year. Commonly inserted into a patient through an artery in their leg, the Core Valve System is guided through the body and into the heart at the site of the aortic value it is to replace. Once there, it takes over the functions of the original valve and makes sure that oxygen-rich blood flows out of the heart more effectively so it can better circulate through the whole body. This device allows for the treatment of patients who are either to ill or otherwise frail to have their aortic valves treated/replaced via the more traditional open-heart surgery. The team for this groundbreaking new treatment consisted of Kim Guibone, NP, Kamal Khabbaz, MD, Roger Laham, MD, David Liu, MD, Duane Pinto, MD, and Jeffrey Popma, MD. This new treatment is hopefully going to improve the lives of the more than 100,000 people in the United States alone who suffer from severe aortic stenosis, not to mention the more than 300,000 people worldwide.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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