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Could minimally invasive valve replacements be in the future?

It's been almost four years since my father had heart surgery, and I'll never forget the way he looked when I first saw him in the recovery room. Though my mom had warned me it would be scary - "I've seen people come out after heart surgery, and they look very, very bad," she told me - nothing could prepare me for the shock of seeing him lying there, lifelessly. The color of his skin, the tubes, the noise of the machines... The surgeons assured us he was doing great (and he was), but my eyes and heart were telling me something quite different.

My father's surgery was to get his aortic valve replaced - and so I took great interest in reading that these procedures might someday be done without open-heart surgery. As Forbes' Matthew Herper recently reported, two new medical devices allow aortic valves "to be fixed or replaced with tiny catheters that are snaked up from the groin, similar to the way stents are implanted in the heart..."

Herper does a great job of explaining the technology, and he emphasizes that there are still "significant technical problems to overcome." But, especially after seeing my dad go through his surgery, I'm heartened by Herper's closing lines:

The good thing about technical problems, though, is that they are solve-able. And the idea of replacing a valve in a much less invasive manner looks as if it really is on the right side of history.

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