Bionic pig valve implant may spare patients major heart surgery

Patients with debilitating heart disease could be spared major surgery with a bionic valve implant.

The small device, which can be fitted in less than an hour under local anesthesia, is designed to treat aortic regurgitation, a condition that deprives the body of oxygenated blood and leaves patients feeling tired and breathless.

The problem occurs when the valve at the outlet of the heart, the aortic valve, is damaged and does not close completely. This allows blood to flow back to the heart and affects its ability to pump efficiently.

It is most commonly seen in elderly patients and those with high blood pressure. Damage can also be caused by infections.

Up to 5% of the population suffers from aortic regurgitation, and about one in 20 people suffer from severe symptoms. In these cases, the only option is open-heart surgery, which involves opening the patient’s chest, placing their heart on a bypass machine, and replacing the valve.

However, many people are too frail to withstand this major surgery. Also, until now, there were no valve implants designed specifically for aortic regurgitation – surgeons used implants designed to treat other forms of valve disease, which tend to dislodge.

The new JenaValve Trilogy bionic implant, which has a metal frame and a valve derived from a pig, can be installed in a minimally invasive procedure that takes less than an hour. “There hasn’t been anything like this before,” said cardiologist Professor Andreas Baumbach, who led the team pioneering the device at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.

“The JenaValve trilogy will make a huge difference. The first hundred patients have now been treated and there has been an almost 100% success rate.”

One of the first people in the UK to benefit from the new procedure was Ronald Pavett, 86, a retired Royal Mail employee from Chesham in Buckinghamshire.

First diagnosed in 2019, Mr Pavett underwent another type of valve replacement and had a pacemaker fitted, which did not help significantly and his future looked bleak.

Last month he had the JenaValve fitted and started feeling better almost immediately.

He said: “The operation itself was totally painless – I didn’t feel a thing. I was up within days and noticed so much improvement.

– Mail online