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Historic Heart Operation At Waikato Hospital

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Historic Heart Operation At Waikato Hospital

Doctors at Waikato Hospital in Hamilton will this morning perform the first heart operation of its type in a New Zealand public hospital.

The transcatheter aortic valve implementation on a 79-year-old Tauranga woman is the first of four planned at the hospital over two days.

The operations are only possible thanks to the generosity of the Waikato Heart Trust and a private benefactor who gifted more than $300,000 to cover the cost of the valves for the procedures.

More than 120 people a year present at Waikato Hospital with aortic stenosis, a condition where the main outflow valve from the heart thickens and does not open fully.

Conventional aortic valve replacement by open-heart surgery has stood the test of time and remains the procedure of choice. However, open-heart surgery, which requires a general anaesthetic, major surgery and months of recovery is not an option for about 50 per cent of patients with symptoms.

The patients generally have medical conditions that make it too dangerous to perform this type of surgery.

Replacement of the valve is via the leg, and involves inserting a new valve inside the old aortic valve. The patient only requires a local anaesthetic, and the recovery time is much shorter than for open-heart surgery.

With aortic stenosis, all the blood leaving the heart has to go through the main outflow valve and severe narrowing of the valve causes restricted blood flow to the rest of the body.

Restricted blood flow puts a strain on the heart and eventually causes breathlessness, chest pain, blackouts and heart failure.

Once patients notice symptoms, about 50 per cent of patients with aortic stenosis die within two years.

Only about 2000 transcatheter aortic valve implementations have occurred worldwide and all in the northern hemisphere.

Waikato Hospital's Dr Sanjeevan Pasupati is one of a few cardiologists in the world with experience in this procedure.

Dr Pasupati and his Hamilton colleague Dr Gerry Devlin will be performing the procedures, the first just after 11am, under the supervision of Dr Jean-Claude Laborde, one of the inventors of the CoreValve used.

Waikato District Health Board is to prepare a business case for the Ministry of Health so the operations can continue to occur in the public sector.


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