Alternative to Open-Heart Surgery

By: Philip Stewart Email
By: Philip Stewart Email

June 15. 2007

A new heart procedure at UVa has truly changed one Culpeper woman's life.

"I couldn't drive; I couldn't go to church; I couldn't do anything," said Christinia Mae Bowles.

Bowles, 85, had a leaky heart valve. She was often out of breath and weak. The problem can be fixed with open-heart surgery, but her doctor told her about a new procedure being done at UVa as part of a study called the Everest 2 Trial. A catheter goes into a vein in the leg and up to the heart, where doctors can find the leaking valve. A clip repairs the problem.

The doctor who performed Bowles' surgery explained that the procedure is far less invasive.

"People don't have to have a large incision on their chest. They don't have to have their chest opened up, nor going on the heart-lung bypass machine," explained Dr. Scott Lim, an assistant professor of cardiology at UVa.

Open-heart surgery can be a risky procedure, with recovery time lasting up to four to six weeks. But after having the new Everest 2 procedure, Bowles was out of the hospital in just two days.

She could feel the difference almost immediately. Before getting the procedure done, Bowles couldn't even make it to her mailbox at the end of her driveway, but she's now on the go more than ever.

"I go to Walmart, JCPenny's and Belk, and all the stores around," she said.

But Lim is careful to point out that this procedure is still a study.

"We don't know the long-term yet, whether this is as durable as the standard surgical approach," said Lim.

There are more patients scheduled to have the procedure done, and it will be about a year before doctors get any solid data.

But for now, Bowles is more than happy with her results.

"I feel good," said Bowles. "Right now, I think I'm doing good."

UVa is one of only 30 hospitals in the U.S. doing the new procedure, but doctors stress this is not a solution for everyone with a leaky heart valve. There are numerous qualifications that potential candidates must meet.

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