Montreal Heart Institute implants new biological prosthesis, a first in Canada

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A team at the Montreal Heart Institute (MHI) recently became the first in Canada to implant a new biological prosthesis that reduces the amount of time some patients will spend on the operating table.

"It allows us to treat patients who have both aortic valve disease and aortic aneurysms with the same implant that will replace both the valve and the aorta with a biological valve using technology that possibly allows the implant to last longer," says Dr. Philippe Demers, a cardiac surgeon at the MHI.

Diseases of the aortic valve, which controls blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta, occur when the aortic valve can no longer open or close properly. This can lead to heart failure or an enlarged heart.

The new prosthesis that Demers and his colleagues implanted on May 31 is unique in that the tube and valve are already assembled, reducing the time and risk associated with the surgery.

Without this new prosthesis, Demers says, "we would have had to sew a valve into a tube on the operating table ourselves."

"So, the procedure is more efficient with less time wasted and we avoid potential small technical errors by having this conduit already prepared at the factory," he explains.

Surgeons can use either mechanical valves or biological valves to treat such problems.

Biological valves, which are made from human or animal tissue, are usually offered to slightly older patients, as they have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years. Patients who receive them do not have to take blood thinners.

In contrast, younger patients are usually implanted with mechanical valves that last much longer, but require anticoagulants.

"The new valve, even if it is biological, will be available for these younger patients," explains Demers. "The implant we used employs the latest technology ... to try to delay or prevent calcification or degeneration of the biological tissue."

The goal is to improve the quality of life of patients and allow them to avoid taking blood thinners for many years.

The new valve looks promising, Demers says, and "so far, the human data up to five years is very encouraging."

"But that's the history of cardiac surgery," he concludes. "We often have to wait 10, 15, 20 years to confirm our clinical impressions."

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on June 8, 2021.

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