Success for pioneering heart-valve implant

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2012, 12:00am


Chan Man-nang, 79, used to run out of breath simply by walking, but after being the first Hongkonger to undergo a pioneering heart-valve implant operation, he can now climb stairs with ease.

Chan is one of 16 patients with aortic stenosis who underwent the minimally invasive procedure called a transcatheter aortic valve implantation (Tavi) at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The hospital says the surgery has seen a success rate of 100 per cent and will now be used more widely.

Aortic stenosis is a condition where blood flow is obstructed because the valve between the heart's left chamber and the aorta, the body's biggest artery, is too narrow.

'Before the surgery, I used to be short of breath when walking, especially going up an incline,' said Chan, who underwent the surgery when the Tavi was introduced to Hong Kong in December 2010.

'Now climbing the stairs up three or four floors is not a problem for me,' he said.

Dr Michael Lee Kang-yin, a consultant cardiologist at the hospital and part of the team that performs the surgery, said the Tavi would soon be provided in three hospitals, benefiting 80 to 100 patients a year. The hospitals are Queen Elizabeth, Prince of Wales and Queen Mary.

The procedure, now approved by the government, is also expected to be covered by the Samaritan Fund of the Hospital Authority this year. But unlike the case of Chan and 15 others, whose operations were funded by Queen Elizabeth Hospital's charity fund, Lee said they would start charging HK$240,000 for each surgery.

Using the Tavi technique, the valve implant is inserted through a vein in the patient's thigh. The implant will be carried through the bloodstream until it reaches the obstructed valve, and it lodges there, improving blood flow.

Before the Tavi, aortic stenosis patients, who could not undergo open-heart surgery, could only seek drug treatments, which were less effective. The Tavi does not leave a scar and has had a high success rate in the decade since the technique was first used by Dr Alain Cribier of France in 2002.

But Dr Chan Kam-tim, another consultant cardiologist in the Kowloon-based hospital's specialist team, said the Tavi should only be done on high-risk patients, especially the elderly or stroke victims.

Others who do not meet the criteria for age and other risk factors should opt for traditional methods like open-heart surgery, Dr Chan said.