Physicians at the University of New Mexico recently performed the first valvuloplasty at University of New Mexico Hospital with the inauguration of the state's only UNM Mitral Valve center.  Valvuloplasty is a state-of-the-art procedure that can save a patient from having to undergo open-heart surgery to repair.  Warren, Laskey, M.D., division chief for Cardiology within the UNM School of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine, led the team that performed the procedure.  

Laskey routinely performed valvuloplasty procedures on the east coast before arriving to assume position of chief of Cardiology at UNM earlier this year.

"This is a procedure that can truly improve a patient's quality of life," said Laskey.  "When it is appropriate for the patient, it also means he or she isn't exposed to the longer hospital stays and recuperation periods that are required by open heart surgery." 

Valves that fail to open fully are called stenotic valves. When these valves begin to cause symptoms patients are generally referred for open heart surgery.   Valvuloplasty is a procedure that can be used to widen a stiff or narrowed heart valve (stenotic heart valve). With the procedure, a catheter with a collapsed balloon at its tip is inserted into an artery or vein in the leg.  The balloon on the catheter is then inflated, enlarging the opening through the valve and improving blood flow through the heart and to the rest of the body. This allows the heart to pump more effectively, reducing pressures in the heart and lungs.

Balloon valvuloplasty has been used most commonly and successfully on the mitral and pulmonic valves. Nationally, it has become increasingly popular in children and adolescents with congenital stenotic valves.  In adults, it is the procedure of choice for mitral valve stenosis with minimal calcium deposits.  It is also performed as an alternative to surgical replacement in patients with severe aortic stenosis who are very elderly, debilitated, disabled and considered high-risk or unsuitable surgical candidates.

The procedure can be done under a local anesthetic and conscious sedation a much less invasive procedure than traditional heart surgery.  Many times, the patient can be discharged the following day.  To date, however, there have been no cardiologists within the state of New Mexico performing valvuloplasty.

The risks, benefits, and effectiveness of valvuloplasty are highly dependent on several factors. These include which one of the four heart valves is stenotic, the cause of the valve stenosis, the severity of valve leaking, the appearance of the valve on echocardiogram, heart muscle function, patient age, and associated medical problems.

A valvuloplasty isn't always an option for a patient facing surgery.  A cardiologist must assess whether the diseased valve has the type of characteristics that will respond to valvuloplasty. 

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Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322