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St. Luke’s heart specialists introduce new nonsurgical heart valve


A St. Luke’s Heart & Vascular Center team recently made regional medical history when it was first in the area to implant the newest generation of nonsurgical aortic heart valves in a patient at St. Luke’s Bethlehem Campus.

St. Luke’s was recently named one of the nation’s 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals by PINC AI and Fortune magazine.

On April 11, the St. Luke’s heart specialist team led by Dr. Raymond Durkin, chairman of the Heart & Vascular Center, and Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery Dr. Stephen Olenchock, inserted the Edwards Sapien 3 Ultra RESILIA catheter-based aortic heart valve into the failing valve of a 76-year-old patient, during a procedure that lasted less than 20 minutes.

The aortic valve is the gateway out of the heart supplying the body with oxygen-rich blood. As the valve leaflets – which normally open and close with each heartbeat – become stiffened with calcium deposits due to advanced age, heart disease or other causes, blood flow is hindered, which causes dangerous symptoms like shortness of breath and possibly heart failure. Replacement valves, made of metal and cow heart tissue, can fail over time as the tissue loses its flexibility, and they, too, eventually must be replaced.

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2022, the Sapien 3 Ultra RESILIA aortic valve is highly durable, plaint and long-lasting device that has been shown through rigorous research to extend the longevity of the valve tissue, thereby minimizing the need for its replacement to treat aortic stenosis.

Edwards Lifesciences, which pioneered catheter-based aortic valve replacement called TAVR, has now developed a proprietary calcification-resistant process used to treat the bovine (cow) heart tissue, used in the replacement aortic valve, which slows the breakdown of the tissue.

The patient benefits of this industry-leading innovation are far-reaching, Olenchock said.

“The Sapien 3 Ultra RESILIA valve is a game-changing innovation in this country where 20% of older Americans today require treatment of this often-life-threatening condition,” Olenchock said. “It gives hope to patients of all ages that their TAVR aortic valve will last much longer than previous generations of it by reducing the rate of complications and need for replacement.”

TAVR is the non-surgical transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure that has become heart specialists’ and patients’ preferred method for solving the problem of failing aortic heart valves. St. Luke’s heart specialists have been performing TAVR procedures for a decade, treating approximately 300 patients annually.

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