Traditional open heart surgery remains the preferred method to repair many heart defects, according to Dr. Scott Burke, Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology at St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne. But, he states, minimally invasive procedures using catheters are gaining ground. In many cases, these methods reduce the risk of complications and shorten recovery time. Also, catheter-based procedures are allowing physicians to offer some of these procedures on older, sicker and higher-risk patients.
Dr. Burke says in recent years catheter-based procedures have developed beyond just angioplasty and stent procedures. Now, physicians have been using catheter-based techniques to replace aortic valves, eliminate many types of cardiac arrhythmias, repair holes in the heart, repair aneurysms and improve mitral valve function. Most recently, physicians now can implant wireless pacemakers the size of a large vitamin capsule and implant plug type devices into the heart that protect patients with atrial fibrillation from a stroke. He says each year methods and technology advance and more procedures can be done without the need to open the chest.
Many patients are able to live longer with a better quality of life. “Ninety is the new eighty for many cardiac patients” states Dr. Burke. He continues, “Many patients had no surgical options for these conditions because of their very high surgical risk. Now, catheter-based interventions will allow them a better quality of life and in some cases a longer life.” Even better, federal and medical guidelines are allowing these newer methods to be used on a wider population of patients, so more are being given choices when it comes to improving cardiac health.
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