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Australians in world's 1st major heart valve breakthrough surgery

June 18, 2012 - Melbourne

A new treatment to replace a major heart valve in patients could be widely available in two years after the first successful trial conducted by Australian surgeons.

The treatment allows surgeons to replace the aortic valve in patients suffering from narrowing of the artery, a condition known as aortic stenosis, without the need for open heart surgery.

Eleven elderly Australian patients received the life-saving surgery in the world-first trial.

The 90-minute surgery involves inserting a synthetic heart valve, called a lotus valve, through the groin and into the heart.

The device is unique because it can be withdrawn and repositioned if necessary during the procedure, said Professor Ian Meredith, the director of MonashHeart at Melbourne's Monash Medical Clinic.

This manoeuvrability sets it apart from other valves which have been used for the past three to four years, he said.

The trial had a 100 per cent success rate and will now be tested in larger international studies.

"This may be a huge new step for the treatment of severe aortic stenosis in the elderly," quoted Meredith as saying.

"This is a tremendous start and it really is a major cultural shift in the way we are going to do heart valve replacements in the future," he said.

The aortic valve is the major valve controlling blood flow into the aorta, the main blood vessel which feeds the body.

It opens 100,000 times a day - about 36 million times a year.

In aortic stenosis, which affects older people, the valve has calcified and doesn't open properly.

The condition causes breathlessness and if left untreated, can cause death in about 50 percent of people with severe symptoms in two years.

According to Meredith, the technique will now be trialled in 16 hospitals in Germany, France, the UK and Australia, and if they are successful, the technique could be adopted more widely in about two years.

Melbourne's St Vincent's Hospital and the Royal Adelaide Hospital were also involved in the recent trial.


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