Toronto hospital touts ‘game-changing’ heart procedure for high-risk patients

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TORONTO — Doctors at a Toronto hospital say they’ve successfully performed a game-changing heart procedure that could offer new hope to high-risk patients who are too sick for surgery.

Doctors Neil Fam, Mark Peterson and Geraldine Ong at St. Michael’s Hospital tout it as the world’s first minimally-invasive tricuspid valve replacement.

The procedure involves replacing a leaking valve in the right side of the heart by inserting a catheter through the femoral vein in the groin and implanting a tiny device that prevents blood from flowing back into the heart.

Fam says it’s similar to a method commonly used to replace the aortic valve, and also similar to the way clogged arteries are relieved with angioplasty in which a tiny balloon is inserted into a blocked blood vessel.

Before this technique was developed, Fam says tricuspid valves would typically be replaced by open heart surgery or an incision through the ribs. He says this less-invasive approach reduces the risk of complications, recovery time and medications.

Fam and his colleagues performed the procedure for the first time in May 2019, and successfully repeated it several more times. Details of the procedure were published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Interventions.

St. Michael’s hospital says approximately 150 thousand Canadians have significant tricuspid regurgitation. Of those, about 60 per cent either have no symptoms or respond to medications. But the rest — about 60,000 patients — would need some form of intervention.

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