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Heart valve repaired without chest surgery

A Hamilton Health Sciences patient is the first in Canada to undergo a lifesaving cardiac valve repair procedure as part of an international study underway at a select group of hospitals in Canada, the United States, and Europe. The HHS team of Drs. Douglas Wright, Shamir R. Mehta and J.D. Schwalm were the first in Canada to perform this procedure.

The trial uses new technology called the TriClip transcatheter tricuspid valve repair system from Abbott, a U.S.-based healthcare technology company. The TriClip procedure repairs the tricuspid valve without surgery, by delivering the device to the heart through the femoral vein in the leg. “A tube is inserted, and the clip and equipment needed to attach it are fed to the repair site,” said Mehta. “We can see what we’re doing using echocardiography  — an ultrasound of the heart. This basically acts as our eyes, allowing us to visualize the valve and area of leakage, and place the clip where it needs to go.”

“It’s a significant milestone for our hospital and nationally,” said Dr. Shamir R. Mehta, an interventional cardiologist at HHS and professor of medicine at McMaster University. He’s also a senior scientist with the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI), a joint research centre of HHS and McMaster.

Mehta led the HHS medical team, which also includes Drs. Douglas Wright and Jon-David Schwalm, that performed the three-hour procedure on Dave Whatmore, 80, of Oakville.

The HHS team of Drs. Douglas Wright, Shamir R. Mehta and J.D. Schwalm were the first in Canada to perform this procedure.

“This procedure would have been science fiction 10 years ago,” said Mehta. “But with rapid advances in device technology and our ability to image the heart, we are now able to repair the tricuspid valve without actual surgery.”

“The tricuspid valve — located on the right side of the heart — is often referred to as the forgotten valve because until this procedure there were few treatment options,” said Dr. Wright, a cardiologist at HHS who performed the echocardiography imaging during the procedure. Prior to this new procedure, surgery was high-risk and rarely done, so Wright says evaluating new ways to fix a tricuspid valve leak is the key to saving lives. People with this condition suffered a high mortality rate.

“To me, it’s like a miracle,” said Whatmore, who underwent the procedure on Aug. 18 at HHS’ Hamilton General Hospital site and was released home the next day. Recovery is typically fast since no surgery is involved. Patients are usually in hospital for only one night and are walking the day after the procedure. “All the staff were phenomenal,” added Whatmore. “I feel 100 per cent better now.”

Before undergoing the procedure, he had been feeling increasingly weak and no longer had the stamina to climb stairs or walk beyond the end of his driveway. Now, just days after the procedure, Whatmore was able to walk to a neighbour’s house for a visit.

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