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"Renaissance" in Less Intrusive Cardiac Care Extending Lives

Older adults are benefiting from advances in minimally invasive heart surgeries. (Kaiser Permanente)
Older adults are benefiting from advances in minimally invasive heart surgeries. (Kaiser Permanente)
February 18, 2019

SEATTLE – Advancements in cardiac care are giving patients and doctors a reason to celebrate this Heart Month.

New methods for treating heart diseases and failure are helping folks live longer, fuller lives.

Dr. Scott Haugen, program chief of cardiology at Kaiser Permanente Washington, says the days of open heart surgery as the only option for patients are gone.

Minimally invasive techniques are available, some involving just a puncture in the leg artery through which doctors send a small catheter to fix heart valves.

Haugen notes the less invasive nature of these procedures is opening up the field for patients who aren't candidates for open heart surgery.

"As you can imagine, you have to be fairly healthy to make it through such a big operation and you have to be willing to invest in all the rehabilitation after an open heart surgery,” Haugen points out. “So the trans-catheter methods really extend the number of patients that can benefit from, say, an aortic valve replacement."

Haugen says patients don't have to go under for these procedures and many are walking within the same day as their surgery. He says the majority of patients only require one overnight stay at the hospital.

Dr. Amir Durrani, a cardiologist with Kaiser Permanente Washington, says over the past three or four decades, treatments for congestive failure largely were restricted to medication and pain relief.

But so-called advanced heart failure therapies have expanded the scope of treatment recently, including the use of left ventricular assist devices, also known as heart pumps.

Durrani says another important advancement is that cardiologists from different subfields are working more closely with each other.

"The use of mechanical support and transplantation – they sort of supplement each other when it comes to our growing body of knowledge and in our ability to help improve the quality of life for patients and to take care of them," Durrani states.

Haugen says these new treatments are extending people's lives – and more advancements are coming.

"Minimally invasive structural heart procedures represent the latest chapter for cardiology, and this is just beginning,” he states. “It's a renaissance and there are a lot of technologies coming down the pike."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA