‘World first’ for heart surgeons in Sudbury
September 29, 2021
SUDBURY, Ont. – Heart surgeons have performed surgical procedures that implanted three distinctly new heart valves in three Northern Ontario patients, making Health Sciences North the first hospital in the world to do so. The procedures used specially developed Edwards Lifesciences Resilia synthetic tissue heart valves.
Sudbury surgeon Dr. Bindu Bittira (pictured) said there was a progression of surgeries using the new valves. The first in Canada to use a single valve – a Resilia Inspiris valve – was in Montreal. Health Sciences North followed up with a surgery performed last month using another new Resilia valve. This was the first time in Ontario, and the second time in Canada. The most recent surgery involved using the Resilia mitral valve.
“After putting in the mitral valve, we’re the first in the world to have put all three of these valves with this novel tissue, of which I wasn’t even aware of myself,” said Dr. Battira. “The company, Edwards Lifesciences, a manufacturer of these tissue valves was the first to tell me that. So, I guess it’s sort of a big deal.”
The patient was an elderly woman who was turned down for conventional open-heart surgery, and then referred to a Toronto hospital to see if a different procedure could be done.
“They thought she was too sick for that alone. So, she came back to my office, still short of breath, very poor quality of life. And this valve came around and we thought, ‘Well, why not? We’ll give her the chance with this valve,” said Dr. Bittira.
Sudbury surgeons were sure it would give the woman a much-improved quality of life. However, this type of life-changing technology is not always easily available.
“Normally in Canada, we don’t get access to this kind of novel technology, novel tissues. And anything new usually goes to either the U.S. or the European countries. And we were the first to be able to do this,” she added.
“It’s just great access for the patients of the North. We never get this kind of technology here. It often goes to Toronto and now these kinds of things are all accessible here and no one seems to know that. I think it would be wonderful if they knew that even though we were up here at HSN, no one needs to travel far away to get the same care.”
Dr. Bittira’s concerns were shared by Dr. Derek MacDonald, another surgeon who took part in the new procedure. He said getting access to new technology also means getting the additional funding to go ahead with the procedure.
“It’s always harder to get your hands on some newer technologies; it’s a bit of a fight to pioneer some of these things,” said Dr. MacDonald. The effort to get funding to carry out new procedures is “always a bit of a back and forth” but the medical teams appreciate the hospital’s support to acquire the technology and be innovative.
Both MacDonald and Bittira were pleased with the design of the Resilia valve implants, saying it made the surgical process easier. MacDonald said it has made a difficult surgery easier to do from a technical standpoint.
Bittira said that although there are other heart valves available, using older technology, they don’t last as long as the new Resilia devices.
“It is a very easily implanted valve,” said Dr. Bittira. “Beautiful structure, extremely easy to handle intraoperatively. There were no complications with the fact that it was a new valve. It’s seamless, very easy, and made that way so patients can have a very quick operation, therefore, less time in the OR. Hopefully that will mean a shorter recovery time and an earlier discharge.”
Source: Len Gillis, a local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com.