Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center studies new aortic valve treatment for high-risk patients

June 06, 2011

Study to enroll patients with severe aortic stenosis for nonsurgical aortic valve replacement

Milwaukee – Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, a leader in heart care, will participate in a national clinical trial that offers patients a less invasive treatment for aortic valve disease.

Aurora St. Luke’s is among 40 sites in the nation and the only one in Wisconsin selected for the Medtronic CoreValve trial. The trial offers high-risk patients, who might not survive the traditional treatment of open heart surgery, a minimally invasive alternative.

“There are a large number of aortic valve patients we want to help but who do not qualify for open heart surgery,” said Tanvir Bajwa, MD, co-principal investigator for the trial. “Through rigorous research, we will examine whether this alternative procedure is safe and effective.”

“This trial will allow us to treat many patients considered to be too elderly or too sick for conventional surgery,” said Daniel O’Hair, MD, co-principal investigator for the trial. “The procedure is performed with the cardiologist and the surgeon working hand in hand to provide the best possible outcome for these patients. If this proves successful, it will transform how we treat heart valve disease.”

Around 100,000 older Americans a year are diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis, and one-third are considered too frail for open-heart surgery.

Common signs of aortic stenosis are fatigue, dizziness, chest pain or pressure, heart murmur, shortness of breath during activity, heart palpitations and fainting.

The disease occurs when the aortic valve narrows, restricting blood flow and increasing pressure within the heart. When symptoms become severe, it can be life-threatening. Without effective treatment, as many as 50 percent of aortic stenosis patients with severe symptoms die within one year. The disease is often unpreventable.

Traditionally, physicians have opened the chest to replace the heart’s aortic valve. This trial uses procedure where the replacement valve is tucked into a thin tube, which is slipped into a leg artery and threaded into the heart. Once in the heart, the valve is deployed inside the diseased valve and replaces it.

The procedure is done under the partnership of an interventional cardiologist and heart surgeon. Aurora St. Luke’s high volume and excellent patient outcomes contributed to its selection as a site for this study.

Aurora St. Luke’s has a long history of firsts. In 1968, its physicians were the first in the Midwest to do a heart transplant, and today the transplant program is in the top 10 percent in the country. St. Luke's also was the first hospital in the state to offer robotically assisted heart surgery. Its physicians are also leaders in the treatment of adult congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathy, Marfan’s syndrome, and heart valvular disease.

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a national leader in efforts to improve health care quality. Aurora offers services at sites in more than 90 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

View and download an animation of the procedure and valve online at

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Contact: Myrle Croasdale
Phone: 414-299-1691

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