News 9 MD: Repairing heart valves without traditional surgery - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

News 9 MD: Repairing heart valves without traditional surgery

(WTVM) -  Open-heart surgery is the gold standard for patients with severe aortic stenosis.

However, a recently published report in the New England Journal of Medicine confirms a new minimally invasive technique to repair heart valves is saving the lives of patients who are too sick for traditional surgery.  

Harry Forbes, 95, and his wife enjoy taking care of the flowers on the patio outside their Dallas apartment. 

Until recently, Harry could barely walk across the room. He suffered from severe aortic stenosis and because of his age, doctors say he wasn't a candidate for open-heart surgery. 

Now Harry can walk half a mile and lift weights. Harry took part in a clinical trial using a procedure called TAVR, which stands for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement. 

During the procedure doctors operate through a small, thin tube, inserted in the patient's leg. The artificial valve begins working immediately.

Researchers studied the results of 800 heart surgeries nationwide and found after one year, the rate of death was much lower in the TAVR group than the patients who had traditional surgery.

"The patient doesn't have to have their entire chest opened up, he or she doesn't have to go on the heart and lung machine," said cardiologist Dr. Robert Stoler. "And this is a much gentler, easier procedure to recover from."

Harry has no doubt TAVR saved his life.

"It is miraculous," Harry said.  

One of the greatest benefits of the procedure is that the recovery time is cut down from several months to a few hours or days.  

Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital in Dallas is one of 45 national sites taking part in the clinical study.

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