Such is the case for patients diagnosed with aortic stenosis, a life-threatening disease in which a heart valve narrows due to calcification, wear or infection. Ultimately, aortic valve stenosis can lead to thickening of the cardiac muscle and heart failure.
To treat aortic stenosis, highly skilled cardiothoracic surgeons perform open heart surgery in which the sternum is split, the heart is stopped and the aortic valve is either repaired or replaced. It is estimated that over 40,000 surgeries are performed in the United States each year due to aortic stenosis.
Given the current size of this market and the expected surge in heart surgery, due to the 76 million baby boomers, several medical centers and corporations are developing new procedures to minimize the trauma and decrease the mortality rates of corrective operations for aortic stenosis.
Minimally invasive procedures appear to be the centerpiece of the new approaches to treating aortic valve stenosis. Using non-invasive techniques the trauma to the chest plate is decreased and the challenging recovery time is greatly reduced.
One such form of minimally invasive aortic valve surgery is a mini-sternotomy. According to Dr. Eric Roselli, heart surgeon at The Cleveland Clinic, “Almost all isolated first time aortic valves get a mini-sternotomy in my practice and All believe that’s true for colleagues as well.”
The other, more revolutionary form of heart surgery used to treat aortic stenosis uses a percutaneous approach that uses cathethers to position tissue heart valve replacements directly into the heat without breaking the patient’s sternum. Edwards Life sciences, based in Irvine, California, currently has its transcatheter, Sapien aortic valve replacement technology in trials.