The Human Heart An 89-year-old woman has become the first person in Britain to undergo a keyhole aortic heart valve replacement operation. Doctors have hailed this operation as the biggest breakthrough in cardiology in the last 30 years. Gladys Adams, from Wigston, Leicestershire, made medical history today when she underwent the pioneering procedure at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester.

During the keyhole procedure a man-made valve with a special catheter was inserted into the groin and guided into place in the heart. Adams was in a stable condition after the operation which took less than an hour.

Dr Jan Kovac, the consultant cardiologist, who headed the surgery team, said that he was hoping the technique would prove successful for other patients in the future.

“We’re very pleased the first operation has gone well. Gladys is now recovering in hospital,” he said. “In the past, patients had to endure open-heart surgery and would have been in hospital for at least a week after their operation.”

The new catheter treatment was much quicker, he said, and in most cases patients would be back home within a few days of having the operation.

“This technique is the biggest invention in cardiology over the last 30 years since the introduction of the coronary angioplasty.”
Adams began to suffer heart problems eight years ago when her aortic valve (which is attached to the body’s largest artery) was becoming blocked and she was unable to undergo open-heart surgery.

She was taken to hospital in November, short of breath and with pains in her chest, and was offered the chance to have the operation. Before the operation she said she had “come to the end of the road” until the keyhole surgery was offered.

“I feel lucky to be able to have this new operation,” she said.

The nature of this less-invasive surgery, performed previously in hospitals in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada, means that recovery time for patients is halved, allowing them to leave hospital just 48 hours after the procedure.

Keyhole heart-valve surgery was pioneered in 2002 in UK for use in babies and young people by Professor Philipp Bonhoeffer at Great Ormond Street Hospital, according to the British Heart Foundation.

Professor Peter Weissberg, the BHF medical director said: “We’re very pleased to see this technology now being used more widely in the UK to treat elderly people with life-threatening aortic heart-valve disease.

“Reducing the trauma of treatment by using non-invasive techniques has huge potential, particularly for babies and elderly people, who are often less likely to cope well with open heart surgery procedures.”