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Body swop that boosts heart op

Tuesday August 3rd, 2010

Heart valve operations can be improved by swapping valves around within a patient's body, a senior British heart surgeon reported today.

The swapping procedure works when an aortic valve - the main outlet from the heart - needs to be replaced, according to a study led by Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub, of the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, London.

Valves can be mechanical or come from human or animal donors.

But the new procedure involves using the patient's pulmonary valve for the aortic procedure. It is this valve that is then replaced by an external part.

For the research, reported on-line in The Lancet, some 216 patients were studied over ten years. Half had the procedure using their own valve, others received parts from human donors.

After ten years just four of those who had the valve swap procedure had died - compared with 15 of those who received donor aortic valves.

The researchers write: "Our results support the hypothesis that a living valve implanted in the aortic position can lead to significantly improved clinical outcomes in patients."

They add they are researching better substitutes for the swap procedure - such as by creating a valve made from the patient's own stem cells.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said mechanical valves - which were not studied in the research - offered benefits for many patients.

He said: "The researchers are to be congratulated on undertaking a long term study on this group of patients. Their results support the view that when the aortic valve and root (the main outlet from the heart) need to be replaced, the long term results are better if the patient's own tissues are used.

"However, for many patients, mechanical valves (made of metal or carbon fibre) will remain the best long term option because of their long established record for durability and safety when combined with blood thinning drugs."

The Lancet on-line August 3 2010

Tags: Heart Health | UK News

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