Doctor says Canadian-led heart valve surgery details will ‘blow people’s minds’

Vancouver’s Dr. David Wood led a study involving 411 patients

A Vancouver cardiologist has presented details of a revolutionary heart valve surgery to thousands of doctors from around the world and says the minimally invasive procedure will “blow people’s minds.”

Dr. David Wood led a study involving 411 patients who underwent an operation called 3M transcatheter aortic valve replacement for treating aortic heart valve disease, at 13 centres across North America, 11 of them in Canada.

“It’s going to change, we think, not just North American, but global practice,” Wood said Monday before presenting the study at the annual Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics conference in Denver, where 15,000 attendees had enrolled.

Instead of invasive open heart surgery, which requires general anesthetic, slicing of the sternum, or breastbone, and long hospital stays and recovery time, patients were awake for the 45-minute procedure and walking within a few hours. Eighty per of them went home the next day.

“You had no breathing tube, no catheter in your bladder, you could return to work the next day, you could be driving the next day. These are things that I think the average person can’t believe are feasible in 2017,” said Wood, who practises at Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital in the same city.

The aortic valve is the most important of four heart valves and leads from the heart to the body, supplying blood to the head, lungs and muscles. It wears out and narrows with age.

The median age of patients in the study was 84, and their symptoms include chest pain and shortness of breath.

“Once you start getting symptoms, 50 per cent of people are going to be dead within a year so it’s absolutely imperative that you fix that valve,” Wood said.

The new innovation builds on a technique pioneered by Wood’s colleague Dr. John Webb in 2005, which still required general anesthetic and a week-long hospital stay.

“By doing less, actually the patients did better,” he said of their work done at the Centre for Heart Valve Innovation involving St. Paul’s, VGH and the University of British Columbia.

“It’s truly been a revolution,” he said, adding the latest procedure means quality of life for patients and cost savings for the health-care system, aspects his team are looking into quantifying.

Sister Theresa Stickley had the “miracle” surgery in 2013 at age 83 when she lived in Squamish, B.C., and became increasingly exhausted and had difficulty breathing.

“The doctor told me I was very close to death and had a couple of months only to live,” Stickley said of the surgery that meant she didn’t have to have her “whole chest bone sawed through.”

“I was walking right after the surgery,” she said from the Monastery of the Angels in Los Angeles, where the American-Canadian citizen moved last year.

Max Morton, 79, was the first person to have the procedure as an emergency-room patient at Vancouver General Hospital. He’d already had open heart surgery a decade earlier.

“Within 24 hours I thought, well, this is nice. It was such an amazing experience being awake for the whole thing,” he said from his home in Richmond, B.C., adding he went fishing five days later.

“The only reason Max is alive is because we’d been doing the study and we were able to use that technique for Max. That’s why he’s such an amazing story. No one had ever done it before like that.”

— Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Northern Health saw 14 cases in one day earlier this week, the highest in one day since the beginning of the pandemic. (Image courtesy CDC)
Northern Health sees highest number of new COVID-19 cases in one day

Oct. 27 saw the highest number of new cases in the Health Authority since the start of the pandemic

Members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation load lobster traps on the wharf in Saulnierville, N.S., after launching its own self-regulated fishery on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. When Jaime Battiste was in his early 20s, cable news channels were full of images of Mi’kmaq fishermen in New Brunswick battling federal fisheries officers over seized lobster traps. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)
Nisga’a Lisims Government calls on Prime Minister to act in N.S. fisheries dispute

NLG President: “We are shocked by what’s happening in Nova Scotia”

A nurse prepares a flu shot. The public vaccine for the 2020-2021 flu season is now in pharmacies in Terrace. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
Private flu vaccines scarce at Terrace pharmacies

Public flu vaccines still available for those with greatest need

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

Sooke’s Paul Larouche, aka PioneerPauly on YouTube, uses a metal detector in hopes to find gold flakes along his claim of the Sooke River. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Island man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

A study by SlotsOnlineCanada notes there is at least 88 hours of top-rated horror movies for Canadians to consume this Halloween. (Unsplash)
Spooks and Chill study reveals Canada’s favourite horror flicks

88 hours of top-rated horror movies can fill COVID-19 Halloween

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

Most Read