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State of the heart

by Loren Bonner, DOTmed News Online Editor | April 01, 2013
When I started writing for DOTmed News over one year ago, the first story I was assigned couldn't have been more complex in my eyes. I have been covering health care for a couple of years but wrapping my head around the cath/ angio lab felt like a tremendous task-and one that should have earned me some type of continuing education credit. There is a lot going on in the space to say the least: different specialists, more room for imaging and highly advanced procedures.

Many of the procedures that were once major surgery, involving cutting open a patient's chest cavity, have become less invasive in recent years. These include mitral heart valve repair, left atrial appendage closure and others. The one you've probably heard most often is TAVR, or transcatheter aortic valve replacement, which involves transporting a prosthetic valve through a catheter in the leg to the heart in patients with aortic stenosis. Currently, the procedure is limited to patients who are not fit for surgery.

DOTmed was fortunate to have reporter Carol Ko attend this year's American College of Cardiology Conference Scientific Sessions in San Francisco last month, deemed the largest cardiology conference in the Americas. One story Carol wrote examined the long-term safety of TAVR. Data presented at the conference showed that mortality rates of TAVR patients were roughly equal to those who had undergone open-heart surgery, but researchers associated higher death rates with harmful valve leaks more common among TAVR patients.

Vinod H.Thourani, Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, who spoke at the conference, urged physicians to adopt "innovative imaging technologies for more accurate sizing to help decrease these leak rates during TAVR." Fluoroscopic X-ray already guides many of these types of procedures, but we're hearing more about ultrasound becoming the second major imaging modality used to help doctors carry out these novel treatments-especially as they become more complex and even less invasive. I'm sure it's also an attractive modality in this era of radiation dose awareness.

These are just bits and pieces. Our online news has been full of coverage from the show-everything from the latest studies to breakthrough technology for this emerging field. In our round-up of online news on the next few pages, you can read some of these stories, and for an overview of the state of the cath/angio lab sector, check out Carol's Industry Sector Report on page 33. It'll sum it all up nicely.

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