March 25, 2013

Heart repair breakthroughs replace surgeon's knife

Marilynn Marchione / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 2)

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Atlanta cardiologist Dr. Spencer King demonstrates how doctors can open blocked heart arteries by going through an arm, using a model, at the American College of Cardiology conference in San Francisco recently.

AP

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Atlanta cardiologist Dr. Spencer King holds a replacement heart valve. Millions of people have valve problems – each year, more than 100,000 people in the United States alone have surgery for them.

AP

The patch is also being tested for a more common defect — PFO, a hole that results when the heart wall doesn't seal the way it should after birth. This can raise the risk of stroke. In two new studies, the device did not meet the main goal of lowering the risk of repeat strokes in people who had already suffered one, but some doctors were encouraged by other results.

Clogged arteries

The original catheter-based treatment — balloon angioplasty — is still used hundreds of thousands of times each year in the U.S. alone. A Japanese company, Terumo Corp., is one of the leaders of a new way to do it that is easier on patients — through a catheter in the arm rather than the groin.

Newer stents that prop arteries open and then dissolve over time, aimed at reducing the risk of blood clots, also are in late-stage testing.

High blood pressure

About 75 million Americans and 1 billion people worldwide have high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attacks. Researchers are testing a possible long-term fix for dangerously high pressure that can't be controlled with multiple medications.

It uses a catheter and radio waves to zap nerves, located near the kidneys, which fuel high blood pressure. At least one device is approved in Europe and several companies are testing devices in the United States.

"We're very excited about this," said Harold, the cardiology college's president. It offers hope to "essentially cure high blood pressure."

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