Study: Non-invasive heart surgery OK for younger patients

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AURORA, Colo. - An alternative to open heart surgery that is usually only offered to at-risk patients could now also be an option for younger people.

The procedure, known as TAVR, is a way to replace failing heart valves by going through a patient's groin area or leg without opening up the chest or putting anyone to sleep.

It's a way to address heart concerns without invasive surgery.

At 86 years old, Dorean Evans is grateful she has no real limitations.

“I do everything," Evans said.

You would never know Evans is just months post heart surgery.

"After the surgery, I walked the hospital floor -- I remember -- that same day," Evans said.

Evans was admitted to the hospital on a Wednesday in December and out by Friday.

She had no big incisions or long recovery process. She had what doctors call TAVR, a non-invasive option to help her heart valves.

TAVR is much different than the hospital time for an open heart surgery operation.

“TAVR is a great alternative," said Dr. Jonathan Sherman, a cardiologist at the Medical Center of Aurora.

Dr. Sherman and physicians at the Medical Center of Aurora have offered the TAVR procedure for years, but only to older, high-risk patients. That is, until now.

“We’ve found that TAVR can actually be a very good procedure for patients who are at lower risk," Dr. Sherman said.

A new study shows that despite its short history and limited data, younger patients (meaning under 70) could start to use TAVR.

“In our world, these are very young patients," Dr. Sherman said.

Right now, the procedure is not approved by the FDA for use in younger patients because of the lack of history.

The new study moves it closer to getting the go-ahead from the government. 

Doctors say once someone gets open heart surgery for heart valve failure, they shouldn't need it again.

Researchers want to know whether TAVR will have the same results. If not, the younger patients could end up needing multiple procedures. For that reason, doctors will most likely still recommend open heart surgery for those who are younger than 70 and in good health.

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