Heart surgery

Keyhole heart surgery that closes ‘leaky valves’ available in England

The surgery that seals off ‘leaky’ heart valves using a tiny clip will now be available across the NHS, after rollout of the ‘life-saving’ procedure was put on hold due to the pandemic.

Mitral valve disease (MVD) causes the valve that keeps blood flowing in the right direction in the heart to narrow or leak.

Symptoms include shortness of breath, heart palpitations and swollen ankles, but if left untreated the condition can lead to blood clots, strokes and heart failure.

MVD affects thousands of people in the UK and standard treatment involves invasive open-heart surgery, which some patients are considered too weak to undergo.

But an alternative, less invasive form of keyhole surgery, Trans-catheter Edge to Edge Repair (TEER), will now be available to NHS patients.

The two-hour procedure involves attaching a small clip, guided through a vein in the groin, to the heart valve to seal the leak.

About 70% of patients who undergo TEER have their symptoms improve and are able to resume normal daily activities.

In 2019, only three sites in England offered the surgery, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Royal Brompton and Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester.

“Saving Procedure”

TEER was to be rolled out widely across the NHS, but the pandemic has put funding on hold.

Now up to 20 specialist hospitals across the UK will be offering the keyhole procedure by the end of the year.

Professor Dan Blackman, interventional cardiologist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and director of the UK’s Valve for Life programme, said: ‘This decision comes after a funding battle which has taken more than 10 years since the NHS’ initial decision not to finance in 2011.

“It follows a two-year evaluation to prove its effectiveness, and further delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic in recent years. It is a life-changing and life-saving procedure.

Professor Blackman said a patient, hospitalized for 11 weeks in intensive care, was discharged from hospital just a week after TEER surgery.

“It was a remarkable result and underlines how effective this simple procedure can be,” he added.