Transcatheter Valve Implantation Trial at Emory

The transcatheter heart valve is as large as 26 mm in diameter when expanded (left) and as small as 8 mm when collapsed over a balloon catheter (right).

In my last post, I focused on the definition, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of aortic stenosis, a condition that can lead to heart failure. Sadly, aortic stenosis affects tens of thousands of Americans each year. In this post, I’d like to expand on one innovative treatment that is reducing the risks of this potentially fatal condition: transcatheter aortic valve implantation.

However, before we delve into an explanation of the treatment, let’s first review the specifics of the condition.

The aortic valve is the valve that connects the heart to the body, and is located between the left ventricle and the aorta. Blood flows through this valve, carrying oxygen to the rest of the body. There are typically three leaflets of tissue over the aortic valve that open and close and ensure proper blood flow. When the aortic valve becomes narrowed – either by degeneration or because is it abnormal from birth, the valve must be replaced to prevent heart failure.

Transcatheter aortic valve implantation is a new, innovative procedure used to replace the aortic valve. Rather than opening the chest and stopping the heart, we make a small incision in the groin or chest. We then insert a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) with a new aortic valve made of animal tissue through a blood vessel, using X-ray or ultrasound imaging to guide the device to the heart. As an alternative to open heart surgery, transcatheter aortic valve implantation has a substantially shorter recovery time and is particularly important for patients who are too weak to undergo the traditional process.

Emory has been involved in this groundbreaking technology since 2007, after Emory interventional cardiologist Vasilis Babaliaros, MD, helped bring the procedure back to us from France. The first cardiologist to perform transcatheter heart valve replacement was French doctor Alain Cribier, MD, who performed the procedure in 2002. Since 2007, we have completed approximately 85 transcatheter aortic valve implantations as part of a clinical trial, and we anticipate that the transcatheter valve will receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in late 2011. (You may view an animation video of the procedure here.)

Emory Heart & Vascular Center is proud to be one of the five largest centers in the United States and the most comprehensive in the Southeast to offer transcatheter aortic valve implantation. We are currently accepting patients for a new trial; for more information or to find out if you or someone you know may be a candidate for transcatheter aortic valve replacement, please contact me at 404-712-7667, or you may call Vinod Thourani, MD, at 404-686-2513. For other questions or comments on the procedure, I invite you to contribute in the comments section below.

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