New way to replace aortic valve successful in high-risk patients

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have developed a new, less invasive way to perform transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a procedure widely used to treat aortic valve stenosis, a lethal heart condition, the NIH has announced on Monday.

The new approach, called transcaval access, will make TAVR more available to high risk patients, especially women, whose femoral arteries are too small or diseased to withstand the standard procedure, the NIH has said.

The new method was developed by researchers at the National, Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and tested in a trial on 100 patients at 20 hospitals across the United States. Researchers said it proved successful in 99 of the patients.

“This is a seminal study,” said the lead author, cardiologist Adam B. Greenbaum, M.D., co-director of the Henry Ford Hospital Center for Structural Heart Disease, Detroit. “It challenged conventional wisdom, which objected to the idea of safe passage between the vena cava and the aorta. More important, it is the first of many non-surgical minimally-invasive tissue-crossing, or so-called transmural catheter procedures developed at NIH that can be applied to diverse fields of medicine.”

Robert J. Lederman, M.D., a senior investigator in NHLBI’s Division of Intramural Research who led the study, said researchers developed the method to address a specific clinical need, even though they knew it would be a challenging proposition for most surgeons and physicians to accept. The proposed and counterintuitive mechanism of action is that bleeding from the aorta spontaneously decompresses into a corresponding hole the physician makes in the vein, because the surrounding area behind the peritoneum has higher pressure than the vein.

The results of the research show the procedure not only has a high success rate, but also an acceptable rate of bleeding and vascular complications, particularly in the high risk patients studied.

NHLBI and its collaborators are now working to find ways to train more specialists to perform the procedure, the NIH’s announcement concludes.

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