The vast majority of heart valve surgeries are successful; however in a small number of cases, a leak occurs adjacent to the valve. This leak allows blood to flow backwards, which can create symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue, breakdown of blood cells and, sometimes, bleeding.
There’s a new, less-invasive option for patients who’ve developed a postsurgical leak like this. It's called a percutaneous paravalvular closure.
“This procedure doesn’t involve opening the chest again, and that’s the real advantage,” says Dr. Peter Pollak, an interventional cardiologist on Mayo Clinic's Florida campus. “This allows a new alternative for many patients.”
The closed-chest procedure is done in a lab using a wire, catheter and a plug that’s smaller than a dime.
“After finding the leak with imaging, we bring a wire from the top of the leg to the heart and through the leak, and then feed a catheter over that wire,” explains Dr. Pollak. “Next, we deliver and secure the small, self-expanding metal-mesh plug that stops the leak. Over time, the body grows in and around the plug, and it becomes part of the heart.”
Dr. Pollak says patients generally feel relief from symptoms as soon as the plug is inserted and tend to continue to feel incrementally better over time. “A benefit is often seen immediately," says Dr. Pollak. "The leak is closed before they leave the lab, and then, over time, the plug gets solidified in place.”