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Innovative Surgical Procedure Saves the Lives of Cardiac Patients

Posted: 21 October, 2011

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Dr. John Webb and his colleagues at Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital are making open-heart surgery a thing of the past, saving the lives of patients not viable for conventional heart surgery.

And thanks to St. Paul’s Virtual Teaching Laboratory (VTL), Dr. Webb has been able to help save yet more lives by teaching this technique to cardiologists and cardiac surgeons from more than 25 other countries.

Dr. Webb, director of interventional cardiology at St. Paul’s Hospital and McLeod professor of heart valve intervention at UBC, is the first interventional cardiologist to develop successful methods of percutaneous aortic valve replacement as commonly used today. Dr. Webb performed the procedure for the first time in January 2005. More than 10 hospitals in Canada are now performing this procedure. The Edwards SAPIEN transcatheter heart valve frequently used in the procedure received Health Canada approval in June. FDA approval in the US is expected this fall.

Instead of the traditional valve replacement technique of open-heart surgery, Dr. Webb’s procedure uses a replacement valve that can be threaded up to the heart using a special catheter inserted into the patient’s artery just above the leg. It’s available on a limited basis for patients with significant valve problems who would not be able to endure open-heart surgery. Until this procedure became available, there was no other option for cardiac patients who, when the aortic valve became leaky or blocked, might suffer angina and heart failure.

“According to the findings of the recent PARTNER* trial, there are 20 per cent more deaths in patients with severe aortic valve disease after one year who don’t undergo this surgery than in those who do – the largest reduction of mortality of any heart therapy ever,” said Dr. Webb.

Recovery time from this surgery is shorter than for open-heart surgery as the heart/lung machine is not involved. Patients may be discharged from hospital as early as within two days of the procedure. Increasingly, younger patients are being targeted for this surgery, including some patients in their 40s for whom open-heart surgery is not an option.

The VTL will broadcast live cases to cardiologists and cardiac surgeons attending this week’s Canadian Cardiovascular Congress (CCC) at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

See full press release here.