USC University Hospital is one of 40 hospitals across the United States to participate in a clinical trial testing a new percutaneous treatment option for patients suffering from severe aortic valve stenosis.
A Keck School of Medicine of USC team led by Vaughn Starnes, chair of the Department of Surgery, and Ray Matthews recently performed the procedure to replace an 84-year-old patient’s diseased aortic valve.
In aortic valve stenosis, the heart’s aortic valve interferes with blood flow from the aorta to the rest of the body. Untreated, aortic valve stenosis leads to serious heart problems.
“The ability to treat this serious condition in a percutaneous way could lead to fewer complications and the ability to offer valve replacement to patients at increased risk for open-heart surgery,” Matthews said.
The procedure, also known as a transcatheter aortic valve implantation procedure, is being tested in the clinical trial. It is performed by inserting a catheter with a prosthetic valve into a tiny opening in an artery in the patient’s thigh. The catheter is threaded carefully to the patient’s heart, where the prosthetic valve is expanded, effectively replacing the diseased aortic valve.
Patients have the potential to leave the hospital within two or three days of this procedure, as opposed to six to seven days following open-heart surgery.
Lidia Fornas, the first patient to undergo the procedure, was discharged from USC University Hospital three days later. Two months after the procedure, Fornas said she is back to activities she couldn’t do for a year.
“I couldn’t climb the steps to my bedroom,” said Fornas, a Reseda resident. “I had to sleep sitting up because I couldn’t breathe. Now I can go up and down the stairs with no problem. I even go outside and do the gardening now.”
Fornas, a grandmother of six, modified her diet after the procedure and does exercises recommended by her doctors. When asked what she wants to do now that she feels better, she said, simply, “Live.”
“Being a wife, a mother and a grandmother makes me a complete person,” she said. “I told my son-in-law, ‘You’re going to have a mother-in-law for a long time!’”
Patients with aortic valve stenosis can experience chest pain, faintness, shortness of breath and fatigue during increased activity, as well as heart palpitations. As the heart is forced to work harder due to the valve narrowing, the patient eventually may experience heart failure.
Aortic valve stenosis is a common problem, affecting approximately 2 percent of people 65 and older, 3 percent of people age 75 and older and 4 percent of people over age 85.
For more information about the clinical trial, call (323) 442-6226.