Raleigh, N.C. — Many elderly patients who suffer from aortic stenosis have few options to extend their lives, but a minimally invasive device recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is creating new hope for a group of patients often forgotten.
Like small stents used to open blocked heart arteries, the artificial heart valve with metal stent is delivered to the heart using a catheter. When it arrives, the stent stretches the heart valve open to wedge it into the old valve, helping blood flow. Elderly patients with aortic stenosis – a buildup of white calcium deposits at the heart valve – often tire quickly.
For weaker patients, open-heart surgery isn't always an option. Marguerite Hendry, 90, was one of four people successfully treated with the new heart valve stent.
"I didn't want to face more surgery, hospitalization and recuperation," Hendry said.
According to Dr. Lance Landvater, a cardio-thoracic surgeon with Rex Hospital, the new device has been approved only for patients who can't undergo the normal open-heart procedure, which is still the standard approach to heart valve replacement.
Doctors aren't sure how long the newest stent valves will last, but many suspect that the devices will outlast the bodies they are placed in.
Rex is the first hospital in Wake County to offer the minimally invasive approach, and Dr. Lee Jobe, a cardiologist at Rex, said the new device will be a game-changer for older patients.
"This is a population of patients that, up until now, we've really had nothing to offer," he said.
Ruby Bissette, 84, was another of the four patients to receive a heart valve stent at Rex so far.
"I just feel so good. I'm ready to go home – go home and plant some more flowers," she said.