Providing a better quality of life to patients with valves diseases: Embracing advanced technologies
Technologies today have solutions to treat cardiac problems in different age groups. For elderly or a patient with a history of non-cardiac conditions or a weak heart, there are minimally invasive procedures such as a trans arterial valve implantation/replacement (TAVI/TAVR). The procedure gives reduced pain, shorter hospital stays, bring recovery time down to a single day and improve the quality of life
Mihir Sharma was diagnosed with aortic valve disease when he was 27. He would feel exhausted and at times, breathless by the time he would get back home from work. He dismissed the signs until the day he had to be hospitalised due to unbearable chest pain along with swelling in his right feet. After investigation, the doctor found that he was at the fourth stage of dyspnea – medical term for shortness of breath which had severely damaged his aortic valve.
He underwent a minimally invasive cardiac surgery that eliminated the need of making large incisions in the breastbone and reduced recovery time. He carried his routine activities after a week and today after five years, he feels energetic even after a long day at work and is living a better quality of life.
“Symptoms of valve diseases are same in both young and old people depending on which valve is involved and nature of the lesion of the valve. Most predominant symptom of valvular disease is dyspnea. I tell my patients that there is nothing to worried about as advancement in healthcare technologies have led to reduced mortality rate in case of valve diseases. When we carried open heart surgeries that entailed cutting of the sternum or breastbone is cut, the recovery time went up to a month. However, minimally invasive aortic replacement surgery entails less pain, bleeding, and infection, reduced hospital stays, and the patient recovers within four to five days,” said Dr Gaurango Mazumdar.
Understanding Aortic Valve Disease
There are four valves in the heart that keep blood flow in the correct direction – the mitral valve, tricuspid valve, pulmonary valve and aortic valve. During each heartbeat, leaflets of each valve open and close. For some people, the valves lose the ability of opening and closing properly which disrupts the blood flow through the heart. When a person suffers from aortic heart disease, their aortic valve between the left ventricle and aorta which is the main artery that delivers blood from the heart to the body doesn’t work efficiently. It may be narrowed (stenosis) or may not be closing properly, causing blood to leak backward to the left ventricle (regurgitation).
The disease may be caused by a congenital heart problem or other conditions including infections, high blood pressure, age-related changes to the heart, and injury to the heart.
As per doctors, 70 per cent of valve disease patients are from rheumatic heart disease. Rheumatic heart disease is a condition in which rheumatic fever damages the heart valves completely. Rheumatic fever remains one of the major causes of cardiovascular diseases in India accounting for nearly 25 to 45 percent of the acquired heart diseases.
The importance of early diagnosis and timely treatment
It is critical to visit a doctor if you experience any symptom of aortic valve disease. The doctor may review the symptoms, discuss the medical history, conduct a physical examination, and order some tests to diagnose the problem.
Treatment for aortic valve disease depends on the severity of the condition. If the disease is mild or moderate, the doctor may just monitor the patient’s condition with regular follow-up appointments. Based on that, healthy lifestyle changes and medication may be suggested to reduce the risk of complications. The person may undergo a procedure to repair or replace the diseases aortic valve.
“Initially, we prescribe medicines for a patient with aortic valve disease but if the condition worsens, we recommend the patient to undergo a minimally invasive procedure for valve repair or replacement. The good news is, with breakthroughs in cardiac care, we do not cut the chest to perform the surgery. In fact, we just make a small incision below the nipple. With minimally invasive procedures, recovery is faster as the patient can be discharged within five days contrary to 10 days of hospitalisation in case of conventional heart surgery,” said Dr Manish Porwal.
The promise of technologies to patients with valve diseases
Technologies today have solutions to treat cardiac problems in different age groups. For elderly or a patient with a history of non-cardiac conditions or a weak heart, we now have minimally invasive procedures such as a trans arterial valve implantation/replacement (TAVI/TAVR). The procedure gives reduced pain, shorter hospital stays, bring recovery time down to a single day and improve the quality of life. In the USA which has population of 330 million, 85,000 aortic valve replacements are performed annually of which 40 percent are TAVI/TAVR.
“There has certainly been a phenomenal increase in number and expertise in minimally invasive techniques in cardiac surgery, which require modern equipment. Besides TAVI, the use of transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) has become a routine in almost all centres who do cardiac surgery. The procedure plays a crucial role in guiding the surgeon with surgical planning and in evaluating procedural success,” said Dr Ranjit Jagtap.
India is at the cusp of revolution when it comes to cardiac care. Credit it to years of research by healthcare experts, sophisticated technologies and minimally invasive procedures are bringing respite for patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases. Everything said, let us not forget that prevention is better than cure. Living a healthy lifestyle that includes quitting smoking, drinking in moderation, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight can go a long way in living a heart-healthy life.