Johns Hopkins Hospital has begun testing a new device designed to replace blocked aortic valves in patients who can’t have major open-heart surgery because they are elderly or have other serious medical conditions.

Surgery for the implant is minimally invasive, and may be the only hope for some patients. Called CoreValue, the device is placed inside a damaged valve through a catheter threaded through a leg artery to the aorta, the heart's main blood vessel.

It is a self-expanding compressed metal scaffold with three flexible tissue leaflets. A sheath covering the valve is removed and the leaflets can then open and close and direct blood flow around the body.


The first two patients -- aged 84 and 90 -- had their procedures July 8. Already approved in Europe, reports show that it has allowed blood flow to more than double.

"The people most likely to benefit from this approach are incredibly weak, often bedridden because of their severely narrowed, aortic valve," said interventional cardiologist Dr. Jon Resar, an associate professor and director of Hopkin's adult cardiac catheterization laboratory.

He and cardiac surgeon Dr. John Conte are leading the Hopkins part of the study, which includes 40 medical centers. The device maker, Minneapolis-based Medtronic, is funding the tests.

About 1,200 are expected to get the devices during the two-year study. Doctors note that it won't be a cure-all for everyone. Up to 30 percent may die within a year from disease-related complications. But without the device, and a drug-only treatment, up to half could die within a year.

Conte estimate that more than 300,000 elderly American have severe aortic stenosis, or narrowing, but traditional open-heart surgery is too risky. Debilitated patients can get immediate relief from chest pain, he said.

For more information on the trial, go here.

Photo courtesy of Medtronic