John A. Macoviak is a retired heart transplant surgeon and cardiothoracic surgeon living in California. Dr. Macoviak is a frequent contributor to several health publications and below he discusses some of the recent advances in heart surgery that are making the news.
Each year, new advances help cardiac surgeons save the lives of countless people with heart disease. John A. Macoviak explains that as technology and surgical techniques continue to innovate, surgeons are able to perform increasingly complex procedures with better results. Today, surgeons are able to save patients who only a few years ago would likely have died.
Dr. John A. Macoviak explores some of the great innovations in cardiac surgery currently taking the medical field by storm. These technologies have come to fruition through new production methods, digital computing and increased funding across the world, enabling patients to survive even in the worst of circumstances.
3D printed implants and surgical equipment
John A. Macoviak reports that a very promising advance is the advent of 3D printing. 3D printing is the process of creating a three-dimensional object from a digital model. This technology is used by surgeons to create custom implants and surgical tools that can be used during surgery.
3D printing has already been used to create a custom titanium sternum implant for a patient who had her sternum removed due to cancer. John A. Macoviak explains that the implant was created using a 3D printer and was customized to fit the patient’s exact dimensions. The implant was then implanted into the patient’s chest cavity.
3D printing is also used to create custom heart valves. These valves are made from a biodegradable material designed to dissolve over time. This eliminates the need for a second surgery to remove the valve after it has served its purpose.
John A. Macoviak reports that doctors have even gone so far as to use 3D printing to create custom tools for heart surgery. These tools can be customized to meet the specific needs of each patient. This allows surgeons to have the right tool for the job, which can lead to better results.
Although the use of this technology in cardiac surgery is still in its infancy, as the technology continues to evolve, John A. Macoviak says it’s likely that even more innovative uses of 3D printing will be developed. This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way heart surgery is performed and could help save the lives of countless people.
Percutaneous aortic valve replacements
Before a few years ago, if you had aortic stenosis, you probably wouldn’t have many medical options. John A. Macoviak explains that aortic stenosis is a narrowing of the aortic valve opening that prevents the heart from pumping blood to the rest of the body. In some cases, aortic stenosis can be treated with medication, but in most cases surgery is needed to replace the aortic valve.
Traditionally, one had to undergo open-heart surgery. This surgery is done by making a large incision in the chest and opening the heart. The aortic valve is then replaced using a patch or valve from a donor heart. Open heart surgery, however, is a risky surgery that puts the patient at risk of stroke, cardiac arrest, and blood clots.
Fortunately, doctors have innovated a new surgery to treat aortic stenosis – percutaneous aortic valve replacements. This new procedure is a minimally invasive surgery that replaces a diseased or defective aortic valve without having to open the chest cavity.
Instead, John A. Macoviak explains that this procedure is performed by making a small incision in the chest and inserting a replacement valve through the blood vessels. The minimally invasive nature of a percutaneous aortic valve replacement makes it much less likely to kill the patient or cause serious side effects.
Watchman implants for atrial fibrillation
John A. Macoviak reports that atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a common heart rhythm disorder that causes an irregular and often rapid heartbeat. When the heart beats this way, it doesn’t pump blood as efficiently as it should. This can lead to blood clots, strokes, heart failure, and other heart complications. Until recently, anyone with atrial fibrillation was treated with blood thinners to prevent these clots.
However, recent developments have produced a new implant device called Watchman. Unlike other heart implants, it does not affect the performance of the heart, but rather helps close the heart’s left atrial appendage, preventing it from pooling and clotting blood. This makes the Watchman an ideal solution for anyone who cannot take blood thinners according to John A. Macoviak.
It’s unclear to what extent the Watchman will be readily available to the general population, but as it is further researched, it is sure to find its place among other famous implants such as the pacemaker.
In just a few years, heart surgery has come a long way. New techniques and technologies, such as 3D-printed valves and microsurgery, have enabled surgeons to perform increasingly complex procedures with greater precision and safety. This has improved patient outcomes and helped reduce the incidence of cardiac complications and death.