St George Private Hospital
Part of Ramsay Health Care


Less invasive heart procedure for patients at St George Private Hospital

Apr 24, 2019

Cardiac patients at St George Private Hospital now have access to a less invasive alternative to open heart surgery: Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI).

The hospital has started offering the procedure to certain patients suffering from aortic stenosis, which is characterised by the narrowing of the aortic valve opening.

Interventional cardiologist Dr James Roy said aortic stenosis is a common condition for people aged in their 70s and 80s and is caused by wear and tear of the aortic valve over their lifetime.

“If the aortic valve is severely narrowed, there is often strain on the heart. The typical symptoms from this are shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting,” Dr Roy said.

Traditionally, patients with the condition have open heart surgery which is more invasive and often involves five to seven days of recovery in hospital followed by a few weeks at home before returning to normal activities.

TAVI offers a different approach, allowing specialists to gain access through the groin and replace the valve through the femoral artery. Historically, the procedure has been used in patients for whom open heart surgery is considered risky.

“There is a lower risk of stroke and a quicker recovery time that is a huge advance for patients who are unable to be treated with surgery. The trade-off is a slightly higher risk of needing a pacemaker,” Dr Roy said.

“For patients who have a good quality of life, and want to maintain a good quality of life, this is a great advance. The average stay in hospital is three days,” Dr Roy said.

St George Private Hospital’s TAVI heart team includes two interventional cardiologists, a cardiothoracic surgeon and an experienced anaesthetist.

Two randomised clinical trials were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showing TAVI could potentially benefit more patients than once expected.

The first TAVI case was performed in France in 2002, but a combination of advancements in technology and better access means the procedure has become more common.

The arrival of TAVI at St George Private Hospital comes in the lead-up to Heart Week 2019 – and Dr Roy is encouraging people to heed this year’s theme: Heart health checks.

“Heart checks are important so potential issues can be dealt with in a controlled and well-planned manner, rather than letting a condition get too serious,” Dr Roy said.

“I love cardiology as a career because you can offer beneficial treatments for patients. There is always new technology, it’s a pretty exciting field, you’re talking to people all day as well as using your hands,” Dr Roy said.