May 20, 2008 In the hope of reaching a formerly untreatable patient group, clinician-researchers from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center are leading the minimally invasive Phase II EVEREST clinical trial with the aim of treating malfunctioning heart valves in the elderly.
Many elderly people are too old, too weak, or too debilitated by their disease to be candidates for traditional surgery to fix the problem, according to Dr. Arash Salemi, attending cardiothoracic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, and assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College. Projections have estimated that by the year 2010, more than 50 million Americans will be over the age of 65.
As many of these heart valve diseases occur in older age groups, more and more patients will be in need of therapy each year. And the proportion of high-risk/inoperable patients will also increase. The heart valves are trap doors that control blood flow between the chambers of the heart. With wear, they either become leaky or too tight. Symptoms of these conditions include shortness of breath and fatigue, and if left untreated, may often lead to death by heart failure or arrhythmia.
The new technique, already proven safe by a Phase I clinical trial in 2005, involves only a small incision through the skin in the groin. A small catheter is then guided up through the maze of the blood vessels of the circulatory system and into the targeted heart chamber.
Then, a tiny metal clip is clamped into the area to stabilize the malfunctioning valve. This less-invasive method also means less morbidity and less recovery time — as little as a one-day stay in the hospital compared to the usual five days.
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