As many as 300,000 people in the United States are diagnosed each year with severe aortic stenosis, a condition in which the aortic valve does not open fully, decreasing blood flow from the heart to the body. Aortic stenosis may be related to age, a buildup of calcium deposits that causes narrowing, radiation therapy, medications or a history of high cholesterol. Although open-heart surgery is the treatment of choice for aortic stenosis, approximately one-third of patients with this disease are not candidates for the surgery, but they may benefit from minimally invasive heart valve replacement options, such as the Sapien transcatheter aortic valve.
This life-saving alternative to open-heart surgery is manufactured by Edwards Life Sciences of Irvine, CA. The Sapien valve, made of bovine tissue within a collapsible stainless-steel stent, is steered to the aorta along the femoral artery by a balloon catheter inserted through a small incision in the leg. Once guided into place in the aorta, the implant is expanded to full size, immediately replacing the function of the patient’s damaged valve.