Open heart surgery is a scary prospect for anyone.

But, high risk patients - especially the elderly - are 15 percent more likely to die from open heart surgery within 30 days of the operation.  More than 100 thousand people are diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis each year, and repairing it usually requires a heart valve replacement - and that means opening the chest.

If left untreated, aortic stenosis can lead to heart failure. The condition blocks blood from leaving the heart.

The usual procedure requires putting patient on bypass and stopping the heart. The surgeon then cuts out the bad valve and sews in a new one.

The good news is, now there's a much less risky alternative.  It's a heart valve replacement called the Core valve system that's approved for high-risk patients. It's inserted by catheter through a small incision in the leg, using sedation and a local anesthetic. With the heart still beating, the new valve pushes the old one out of the way and takes over.

The procedure greatly reduces the risk of stroke, one of the complications  in valve replacement surgery.

Cardiac Surgeon and Professor Dr. Michael Reardon at Houston Methodist Hospital says people who are older and frail tolerate this procedure much better and with fewer complications. Most go home in 3 to 6 days.  He says they have a significantly higher percentage of survival, and after recovery, many tell him they feel 20 years younger. 

Dr. Reardon says patients can resume normal activities much sooner and don't have to death with the pain of a foot-long chest incision.

Check out more at




Photo credit: JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD / 2013 AFP