Just say the word “aorta,” and instantly, people know the importance of that artery. It’s the main artery that carries blood out of the heart and is essential to proper heart function.
Aortic stenosis is a disease where the aortic valve doesn’t open fully, and blood flow from the heart decreases. It can narrow and increase pressure in the left ventricle. Once this happens, the left ventricle can become thicker, less blood flows, and chest pain emerges. Patients also can feel shortness of breath when blood backs up in the lungs. Others feel light-headedness and fainting.
Although aortic stenosis isn’t common, it can be devastating for patients whose lifestyle is severely affected by symptoms of the disease.
A physician can often feel a vibration or movements when placing their hand over the person’s heart. They also can hear a heart murmur, click, or other abnormal sound through a stethoscope, and follow up with other diagnostic tests.
Those with a mild aortic stenosis can live normal lives with regular physician check-ups. Others may have to limit their activity or take daily medication. Those with significant disease may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial that St. John Hospital is offering. The trial is evaluating Medtronic’s CoreValve System, a minimally invasive option for patients with symptomatic, severe aortic stenosis who are at high risk, or are ineligible, for open heart surgery.
The non-surgical valve replacement procedure, known as transcatheter aortic valve implantation, is similar to a heart catheterization and balloon angioplasty. An artificial aortic heart valve attached to a wire frame is guided by catheter (thin, flexible tube) to the heart. Once in the proper position in the heart, the wire frame expands, allowing the new aortic valve to open, deploying the new valve inside the diseased aortic valve without open-heart surgery or surgical removal of the patient’s original valve.
About 100,000 Americans, most of them over the age of 70, are diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis each year, but one-third of patients, because of age or frail health, are considered too high-risk for traditional surgery.
When the aortic valve narrows it does not open or close properly, making the heart work harder to pump blood throughout the body. Eventually, this extra work weakens the heart and limits the amount of blood it can pump, which may lead to heart failure and increased risk for sudden cardiac death.
The clinical trial will involve more than 1,300 patients at up to 44 hospitals in the United States. St. John Hospital has begun enrolling patients in the study. New clinical data presented recently at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2011 demonstrated positive long-term performance for the CoreValve System.
The study monitored patients through four years – the longest follow-up in a published study of any transcatheter aortic valve implantation system to date – and found the CoreValve System maintained its structural integrity and led to positive clinical outcomes.
SJH&MC, a member of St. John Providence Health and the St. John Providence Heart and Vascular Care Center of Excellence, is involved in heart and vascular research and treatment, and home to the W. Warren Shelden Heart and Circulatory Center.
Interested patients should call 855-98-VALVE to learn more.