Saturday, April 01, 2006

Closed-Heart' a Less-Invasive Alternative

AP - Dr. Samuel Lichtenstein cut a 2-inch hole between an elderly man's ribs. Peering inside, he poked a pencil-sized wire up into the chest, piercing the bottom of the man's heart. Within minutes, Bud Boyer would have a new heart valve — without having his chest cracked open. Call it closed-heart surgery.



A doctor holds a measuring
tape next tothe closed incision
between two ribs after...

"I consider it some kind of magic," said Boyer, who left the Vancouver, British Columbia, hospital a day later and was almost fully recovered in just two weeks.In Michigan, Dr. William O'Neill slipped an artificial valve through an even tinier opening. He pushed the valve up a patient's leg artery until it lodged in just the right spot in the still-beating heart.

The dramatic experiments, in a few hospitals in the U.S., Canada and Europe, are designed to find easier ways to replace diseased heart valves that threaten the lives of tens of thousands of people every year. The experiments are starting with the aortic valve that is the heart's key doorway to the body.

The need for a less invasive alternative is great and growing. Already, about 50,000 people in the U.S. have open-heart surgery every year to replace the aortic valve. Surgeons saw the breastbone in half, stop the heart, cut out the old valve and sew in a new one. Even the best patients spend a week in the hospital and require two months or three months to recuperate.

The hope is that one day, replacing a heart valve could become almost an overnight procedure. Rest here



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