Cow heart tissue used in new life saving procedure

By KBJR News 1

February 4, 2014 Updated Feb 4, 2014 at 9:01 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- It's a new procedure being done at a Duluth hospital promising to save lives. The procedure uses tissue from cow hearts.

The disease "aortic stenosis," which typically affects those over the age of 70, narrows the aortic valve, and when diagnosed half of untreated patients die within 12 to 24 months.

"As people age this valve becomes calcified and rigid and it becomes harder for the heart to pump blood out," said Michael Lucca, senior interventional cardiologist at Essentia Health in Duluth.

However, a new revolutionary procedure at Essentia Health St. Mary's called TAVR replaces the transcatheter aortic valve using tissue from cow hearts.

"TAVR is the first in the pipeline of transcatheter valve therapy," said Antonio Laudito, director of cardiothoracic surgery at Essentia Health in Duluth.

The valve is fed through arteries in the body via the groin, neck or under the breast or ribs.

Once inside the heart the valve expands and begins working instantly.

"This transcatheter therapy is just the beginning of a new era of transcatheter valve," said Laudito.

Lucca says open heart surgery is still the choice for most people who are replacing the valve.

But for the 30-40% of patients who aren't candidates for open heart surgery, the traditional method of treatment, this procedure provides another option.

Cardiologists from Essentia say the new procedure is less invasive and that patients recover much quicker.

... much quicker than if doctors were to perform open heart surgery.

"It's a massive effort to screen these patients and prepare them," said Brett Carlson, director of cardiac imaging at Essentia Health in Duluth.

No matter which method of entry is used, doctors say it's a team effort.

Essentia Health St. Mary's Heart and Vascular Center in Duluth is the only facility in Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin that performs the procedure.

Since October the hospital has performed 11 TAVR procedures.

Elsa Robins