Deteriorating or clogged heart valves in seriously ill elderly people can be replaced in minimally invasive surgery, researchers said Sunday.
At least 100,000 Americans develop aortic valve stenosis each year, which impairs the ability of the heart to pump blood. A previous study showed that the valves can be replaced with prosthetic valves through a catheter inserted in the groin in patients who are too sick for conventional surgery.
New results presented Sunday at a New Orleans meeting of the American College of Cardiology indicate that the procedure is at least as effective as surgery in patients who are not quite so ill, which would extend the procedure to a much larger group of patients. Within a few years, cardiologists expect the procedure to be performed in tens of thousands of patients each year.
"This will be seen as one of the biggest steps in cardiovascular medicine in our lifetime," trailing only the development of balloon angioplasty and the use of stents to keep cleared arteries open, said Dr. David J. Moliterno, a cardiologist at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, who was not involved in the research.
Aortic stenosis is a clogged valve in the artery that transports blood from the heart. It affects as much as 9 percent of the U.S. population over age 65, with the incidence increasing with age.