Sudbury

Cutting edge heart surgery at Sudbury's Health Sciences North

For the last several months, the hospital in Sudbury has been offering heart surgery without cracking open your ribs to get to your heart.

Last year the team at the hospital successfully completed 48 procedures

Transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) is a new procedure at HSN that is done through a small puncture in the right or left leg. The valve is implanted by going up the artery from the groin to the heart.

For the last several months, the hospital in Sudbury has been offering heart surgery without cracking open your ribs to get to your heart. Instead, this surgery involves a small puncture in your leg, and you can be awake the whole time.

Dr. Mark Henderson is the head of Cardiology at Health Sciences North. He says the procedure is called a transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI). He says the procedure is very different from what was available to patients in the past.

He recalls his father had open heart surgery back in 1977 which was the "good old fashioned aortic valve replacement". He was in hospital 10 days, had a large incision in chest, went under general aesthetic and spent days in intensive care. "It was a difficult time for my mother and for all of us back then."

Dr. Mark Henderson is the head of Cardiology at Health Sciences North. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Henderson says this new technique is done through a small puncture in the right or left groin area. The valve is implanted by going up the artery from the groin to the heart where the valve is implanted where the narrowed or leaking valve is. 

Henderson says they've been doing it for years to take pictures, but implanting a valve is a relatively new procedure. Last year the team at HSN completed 48 procedures with no mortality.

"The vast majority of the patients have been done with no general aesthetic, just sedation. Again the vast majority were done without an incision, just a needle stick in the groin as it were, and the vast majority have gone home the next day or the day after that."

The procedure was initially for people in poor health who couldn't tolerate major surgery. Now they are doing it as an alternative to surgery and it costs about the same price, says Henderson.

"The device itself is expensive but the saved days in hospital are very helpful to the system," says Henderson. "Researchers are now developing valves that can be implanted into other valve structures in the heart."

In fact, says Henderson, one of his heroes growing up in England, Mick Jagger, just had a transcatheter aortic valve procedure. He was out of hospital in one or two days and will now be able to continue his tour.

Before this procedure, recovery time would be three to six months.

"He certainly wouldn't be doing the kind of show that Mick Jagger can do for at least six months."

Surgeons at Health Sciences North in Sudbury are performing cutting edge heart surgery that involves a single incision... in your leg. Dr. Mark Henderson is head of Cardiology at HSN. He spoke to us about the surgery and how patients are benefiting from shorter recovery times. 4:46