Henry Ford Hospital Doctors Perform First ‘Outside the Heart’ Valve Operation


tDoctors at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit are the first in the United States to replace a heart valve outside of a patient’s heart, officials announced today.

tPioneered in Germany, the minimally invasive procedure provides another option for patients who aren’t good candidates for traditional open-heart surgery, says Dr. William O’Neill, medical director of Henry Ford’s Center for Structural Heart Disease and lead physician for the procedure.

t“There are a lot of people who have damage of the tricuspid valve, and the surgery is risky, so doctors just try to give them medical therapy,” O'Neill says. “They’re in and out of the hospital, and it really causes a lot of morbidity. So there’s a huge, unmet clinical need.”

tThe Society of Thoracic Surgeons report more than 9,100 heart patients undergo tricuspid valve surgery in the country annually. Replacing a tricuspid valve is one of the more difficult heart surgeries due to the valve's location. It typically requires open-heart surgery, O’Neill says.

tThe new, two-hour procedure involves threading a catheter through a vein in the patient’s groin to the upper abdomen, where physicians insert a replacement valve between the right atrium and the main vein that brings deoxygenated blood back into the heart. Once deployed, the new valve stops blood from leaking and pooling in the patient’s abdomen and lower extremities.

t“There's already a huge drop in the pressure in the abdomen,” says O’Neill about his first patient for the procedure. 

tApproximately 5 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with heart valve disease annually, with more than 20,000 dying of the disease each year, according to the American Heart Association.