Mar. 26 - Czech doctors are pioneering a unique and minimally invasive heart modelation surgery, which is expected to significantly improve the quality of life for patients recovering from heart failure. The procedure isolates damaged tissue from healthy muscle within the left ventricle, leaving a smaller, but more efficient chamber to do the work. Rob Muir reports.
It's a novel, non-invasive approach to heart surgery. Called ventricular enhancement, the procedure is designed to isolate, without removing, the damaged tissue left behind after heart failure. Scar tissue weakens the heart, causing long term and often fatal problems for patients, but by tying it off, surgeons say they can minimise its influence, leaving a smaller, but much more effective ventricle to do the work. Professor Andrew Wexsler of Drexel University College of Medicine, says the procedure represents a significant advance in cardiac care. (SOUNDBITE) PROFESSOR, ANDREW WECHSLER, SAYING: "This is the first time this kind of surgery has ever been done through such a small, minimally invasive, approach." Previously, it was a far more involved operation, requiring a large incision in the chest, and the diversion of blood from the heart to a heart-lung machine while surgeons went to work. The new preocedure is very different according to surgeon Ivo Skalsky at Prague's Homolka Hospital. SOUNDBITE) DR IVO SKALSKY, SAYING: "Our part of the surgery means that we open the left side of the rib cage in a 5-6 centimetre wide incision and using special devices we go through the part of the left heart chamber into the septum and then to the right chamber. There we use another device - a small anchor - which the cardiologists put in from the other side." And when it's over, recovering patients, like 75 year old Jiri Vanek, say the difference is remarkable. (SOUNDBITE) JIRI VANEK, VENTRICULAR ENHANCEMENT SURGERY PATIENT, SAYING: "First of all I can walk much better. My legs are possibly better pumped by blood and I can move much better." Surgeons at Homolka Hospital have performed four of the five ventricular enhancement procedures ever undertaken. Bioventrix, the company who owns the technology hopes it'll soon be available around the world, where heart disease is the leading cause of death.