The problem is if you're too old--or too sick...there was little doctors could do. But now there's a new way to save these patients
Richard Pierce is a chameleon. This retired brigadier general now spends his time collecting uniforms from around the world and reenacts major events and speeches.
"America has never lost, nor will lose a war."
General Patton's famous speech has set the stage for Richard's war against his own heart.
"I've had everything done to me that can be done except a pacemaker and a new ticker," Pierce said.
His latest battle-- aortic stenosis. It's a narrowing of the aortic valve.
"The prognosis of aortic stenosis is worse than some cancers," said Raj Makkar, MD, Interventional Cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Traditionally, the only fix would be open heart surgery. But thousands of patients, like Pierce, would be too old, too frail or too sick to survive it.
"The majority of people would be dead in five years or less," said Makkar.
Interventional cardiologists at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute are using a non-surgical technique, involving placing a valve inside a catheter that's snaked up the patient's body through the groin.
Once inside, a balloon pops the valve open. Recovery time is cut from weeks, to just days. Results published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows death after two years for transcatherter aortic valve replacement was 43 percent. Compare that to standard open heart surgery, at 68 percent.
Fitting that such a dramatic technology has dramatically changed Pierce's life. And this old soldier refuses to die without a fight.
A study between open heart patients and transcatheter patients showed two years after the procedures, there were similar outcomes for survival and stroke. Right now, the non-surgical technique is being used only for patients who are not good candidates for the traditional open heart surgery--such as frail, older people who would not survive. But, clinical trials began this year for people who are less frail.
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