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Heart Valve Repair Surgery in the Elderly

Posted May 10 2011 12:00am
Undergoing open heart valve repair surgery is a very physically stressful procedure – even in the healthiest of patients. In the elderly, who make up the largest group of candidates in need of a new heart valve, the procedure is so risky that many are advised against treatment. However, a new option for minimally invasive heart valve repair surgery has been demonstrated in studies to be not only effective, but safe for treating in the elderly.

Traditional heart valve repair surgery requires dividing the breast bone in two through a twelve-inch long incision to expose the heart and its vessels. This type of trauma is painful, increases blood loss, promotes infection, and requires weeks-long hospital recovery time. The minimally invasive option, on the other hand, avoids all of these complications. In this one-man surgical technique a single two-inch incision is made on the side of the chest between the ribs. This reduces trauma to the chest, minimizes scarring, and patients are able to recover in a matter of days, not weeks.
Leading cardiologists Florida participated in a study whose results were published in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery. This study involved over 203 patients over the age of 75 who were in need of a heart valve repair surgery. Of all study participants, 84 received the traditional open heart procedure while the other 119 received the minimally invasive one. The researchers found that the patients who received the less invasive valve repair had “dramatically” fewer kidney failures, fewer infections and shorter hospital stays.
"Studies have been done comparing the two procedures before, but only on a younger patient population," said Dr. Joseph Lamelas, Chief of Cardiac Surgery atand part of the study. "This is challenging the conventional wisdom that these patients are too old to undergo valve surgery, that they must simply live with their condition and accept diminished quality of life.”
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