“It was my last chance”: UK-first implant gives hope to heart patients
A team at Barts Heart Centre, based in St Bartholomew’s Hospital, have become the first in the UK to use an implant to treat aortic regurgitation.
Aortic regurgitation occurs when blood doesn't flow correctly out of the heart and leaks backwards. As the heart starts to work harder, it can weaken and lead to heart failure. The condition affects 1 in 20 people, and ranges in severity from very mild, to severe cases.
Named after the company that manufactured it, the ‘Jenavalve’ implant is long-awaited. Until now, surgery was the only successful treatment option, but for many patients this was deemed too high-risk.
Patients not fit enough for surgery are sometimes offered another type of valve implant. Whilst these implants could relieve symptoms, they are designed for a different purpose and would often slip out of place and have to be removed.
The latest procedure using the new bespoke implant is non-invasive and takes less than an hour. Patients have already reported getting their quality of life back.
Ronald, 86, a former head of buildings and facilities for the Royal Mail from Waltham Cross, was diagnosed with aortic regurgitation several years ago. Too frail for surgery, he was offered a different type of valve, however the valve would not stay in place and had to be removed.
“At one point my breathing really went downhill. My heart was only pumping about 40% of my blood and the rest was being regurgitated. I felt like I only had three or four weeks to live.”
In May, Ronald became one of the first people in the UK to receive the new implant. He said: "As far as I’m concerned, it was my last chance. I have a lovely family who wanted me around for a bit longer, and I wanted more time with them which is why I went for it. If I live another year, two, three or even more then it’s a bonus.
"My sleeping has improved, my brain is sharper, and my breathing is much better. I can also feel my physical strength coming back.
"I would recommend the implant to anybody in a similar position to myself. Nobody rushes into an operation, but it has completely transformed my life."
The implant was developed in Germany and the first 45 patients treated there are doing well. Barts Heart Centre is the only cardiac unit in the UK to offer this innovative treatment and our clinicians are seeing similarly remarkable results.
Professor Andreas Baumbach, who led the team at St. Bartholomew’s said:
"We have been waiting a long time for this. Previously we would consider using other valves as a treatment. Now, we have a dedicated device to cure the condition.
"We are the first group outside of the research group to do the procedure, and the only centre in the UK who can offer it. So far, we have seen perfect results with a 100% success rate, – there’s been nothing like it before.
"It is great that we can make this treatment available at St. Bartholomew’s, and give new hope to our patients."