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Open heart surgery patients benefit from new technology

(iStock Photo)

The first version was tried out at St. Paul's a decade ago

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A tool developed largely at St. Paul’s hospital is allowing some patients to avoid having to go through open heart surgery and often leads to faster recoveries.

It’s called the SAPIEN heart valve, and version 3 has just got Health Canada approval.

“The new valve is made of metal and cow tissue just sits inside the old valve and opens and closes with the blood flow and pumping as normal,” says Dr. John Webb, director of interventional cardiology and cardiac catheterization laboratories at St. Paul’s Hospital. “You can do this without putting people asleep or opening up the chest.”

Webb says the first version was tried out at St. Paul’s a decade ago. “We put them through a little tube usually at the top of the leg, and steer them up through the blood vessels, eventually we get up to the aortic valve in the heart, and we expand them there and push the old valve out of the way.”

The valve is especially useful for treating aortic stenosis, a condition suffered by up to eight percent of people over the age of 80.