The Alfred is the first Australian hospital to take part in a global trial that could eliminate the need for open heart surgery in some patients suffering a common heart valve disease.
The trial will investigate whether Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) is as effective as open heart surgery for patients with aortic stenosis who are classified as low risk.
Aortic stenosis is a common condition that causes the heart's main artery to become narrow, making it difficult for blood to pass through.
The TAVI procedure is currently reserved for high-risk patients – those who are not well enough to undergo open heart surgery. The trial will determine whether the procedure is suitable for low-risk patients, or those who would usually have open-heart surgery to replace their aortic valve.
Patient Anthea Elliott has become the first low-risk patient in Australia to take part in the trial, after her successful procedure in The Alfred Cath Lab.
“TAVI has become the preferred method for replacing valves in elderly patients, what’s unique for patients in this trial is that they are considered low-risk,” said A/Prof Tony Walton, Head of Structural Heart Program at The Alfred.
“In this trial, we will compare the low-risk TAVI patients with open heart surgery patients and see who performs better.
“The benefit of this procedure is that the recovery time will be much quicker because there is far less injury to the body. Also, the length of stay in hospital following the procedure is much shorter for TAVI patients – they are able to return home in a few days.”
There will be 500 patients taking part in the trial world-wide – half will have TAVI, half will have surgery, and researchers will compare the results.
“The beauty of the TAVI approach is that 95 per cent of the patients are awake so we can talk to them throughout the procedure,” said Dr Dion Stub, Interventional Cardiologist at The Alfred.
“Also, we don’t do any cutting so there’s less recovery for the patient.”
Currently, heart valve disease affects 626,000 Australians aged 65 years and older - one in nine. Heart valve disease occurs when the heart's valves do not work the way they should and can disturb the normal flow of blood through the heart affecting overall health. It can develop before birth (congenital), be acquired during a lifetime, or be the result of an infection.
Common symptoms that may indicate heart valve disease include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty catching breath, especially after activity or when lying down flat in bed
- Often feeling dizzy or too weak to perform normal activities
- Pressure or weight in the chest, especially during activity or when in the cold air
- Heart palpitations or a feeling that the heart is beating irregularly, skipping beats, or flip-flopping in the chest
- Swelling in the ankles, feet, or belly
- Sudden weight gain.
If left untreated, heart valve disease can lead to disabling stroke or death.