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Dr. John: Less-invasive heart surgery

5:51 PM, Nov 6, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA - This week, Denver Broncos head coach John Fox was side-lined when he had an aortic valve replacement done.

The procedure coach Fox had done was the traditional method that involves opening up the chest cavity and stopping the heart. That means an extended recovery time estimated to be 6 to 8 weeks in Coach Fox's case. But hospitals like the University of Colorado Hospital are using a new less invasive procedure that offers a quicker recovery time.

This new procedure is called a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, TAVR. This procedure is done one of two different ways. A catheter line can be inserted in an artery in the groin and threaded up to the heart and the aortic valve. If a person's arteries are too narrow for this method doctors can also go under the arm between two ribs on the left side and insert the catheter line into the heart and up through the aortic valve. Once there a small balloon is inflated, opening up the current, damaged aortic valve. Then the replacement valve is placed in that area and a second balloon is inflated to secure it in place. This replacement valve has a metal mesh ring that fixes itself to the sides of the heart, fixing it in place. The catheter is then removed and the surgery is completed.

Recovery time for this type of procedure is much quicker than the traditional method. With the TAVR, patients are in the hospital for a total of 4 to 5 days. This compares to a 1 ½ to 2 week hospitalization with the traditional type of aortic valve replacement surgery. And at home recovery after getting discharged from the hospital is much shorter as well.

Currently this surgical method is restricted to patients that are high risk surgical patients or those that are inoperable, meaning they would most likely not survive the traditional type of surgery. Clinical trials are going on at hospitals across the country like the University of Colorado Hospital that will involve more medium risks patients. The hope is that in a few years, five by some estimates, this procedure will be approved for these medium risk patients along with the current high risk or inoperable ones. That would mean less recovery time for them and a chance to get back to their lives and work quicker.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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