NUS researchers develop new prosthetic heart valve, offer alternative to open heart surgery

A researcher holding up the prosthetic heart valve, called VeloX, which can be implanted in patients through a small incision.
A researcher holding up the prosthetic heart valve, called VeloX, which can be implanted in patients through a small incision. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed a novel prosthetic heart valve that offers a less risky alternative to open heart surgery.

The new treatment targets patients with mitral regurgitation, a condition in which the mitral valve on the left side of the heart does not close properly.

About 300 patients undergo surgery to treat the condition here yearly. The procedure requires the heart to be stopped.

However many more go untreated as they are usually either too old or suffering from multiple chronic diseases, and are deemed unsuitable for the risky procedure.

The new prosthetic heart valve hence offers hope to this group of patients through a minimally invasive procedure that requires only a 5cm incision, said Dr Jimmy Hon from the Department of Surgery at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.

The valve - measuring 32mm in diameter and 30mm in height - is then delivered straight to the left heart using a catheter, also designed by the team.

Dr Hon said the procedure could also cut the post-surgery hospital stay by half, to about 4 days, and the outpatient recovery period to about two weeks from the two to three months associated with open heart surgery.

The team is now testing the valve in pre-clinical trials and aims to start clinical trials in about two years.