New Technique to Replace Heart Valves

September 25, 2012

DETROIT – Doctors at Henry Ford Hospital are the first in Michigan to replace a patient’s heart valve a second time, implanting an artificial valve by threading it through an artery to take the place of a previous surgical implant.

Sixty-three-year-old Kenneth Crayne of Carleton, Michigan, has struggled with heart failure for years. After a 1998 heart attack caused him to retire at 49, he had open-heart surgery to replace a diseased aortic valve with one from a pig, a traditional treatment for the past 20 years. However, such valves only last for 10 – 12 years.

Once Crayne’s implanted valve began to deteriorate, he needed to have the valve replaced again.

“Mr. Crayne had been in and out of the hospital for six months as the pig valve began to fail,” says William O’Neill, M.D., medical director of the Center for Structural Heart Disease at Henry Ford Hospital. “He was unable to have another open-heart surgery for this second replacement of the same valve. Fortunately, he was a good candidate for a transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, procedure.”

TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for patients with severe narrowing of the aortic heart valve who cannot undergo open-heart surgery. Before the availability of TAVR, these patients had few treatment options.

Dr. O’Neill led a team of physicians from multiple specialties, including interventional cardiology, cardiac surgery, advanced cardiac imaging, vascular surgery, and cardiac anesthesia, for Crayne’s procedure. The doctors used a catheter to thread the replacement valve from a blood vessel in the leg to the heart’s failing aortic valve, and replace it with the new artificial valve.

“Before getting this new valve, I could hardly breathe,” says Crayne. “I could barely walk 20 feet. After the procedure, the doctors were surprised that I could feel the difference in my heart right away.”

Crayne, a former automotive mechanic and instrument technician, is looking forward to getting back to tinkering with his car again and finishing some remodeling projects on his home.