Tygerberg Hospital Performs SA's First Non-surgical Mitral Valve Implant Operation | Western Cape Government


Tygerberg Hospital Performs SA's First Non-surgical Mitral Valve Implant Operation

9 October 2013

Medical history was made at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town on 2 October 2013 when the first non-surgical Mitral Valve Implant in South Africa was successfully performed by the Tygerberg cardiac team.

This team of cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and anaesthetists replaced a mitral valve (the valve at the inlet to the left ventricle of the heart) on 82-year-old Ms Joy Smith from Kleinmond through a “keyhole” procedure without stopping the heart.

Although numerous aortic valve (the valve at the outlet of the left ventricle) replacements have been done with a similar device, this was the first time it was performed on a mitral valve (access to the mitral valve is technically far more demanding).

Because of her significant co-existing medical conditions, Ms Smith was not suitable for conventional surgery.

She received a surgical mitral valve replacement in 2007 but this prosthesis degenerated and was causing severe shortness of breath in a patient who still manages to live independently. This motivated the cardiac team to find an alternative solution.

The valve was crimped (folded) onto a tiny balloon and inserted through a 3cm incision below her left breas, directly into the beating heart. The new mitral valve was deployed by inflating the balloon inside her diseased mitral valve.

The procedure lasted two hours, after which the patient was woken up immediately and started walking around the ward within 24 hours. The expected length of stay in hospital is also far shorter than for conventional open-heart valve replacement surgery.  

For the first time this procedure offers hope to patients with diseased mitral cardiac valves who are too high a risk to undergo conventional open-heart valve replacement surgery.

“I feel like a new person and I can climb a few steps, which I could not before this,” said Ms Smith.

The Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, says: “Congratulations to our team at Tygerberg Hospital. We should be proud for the advanced skills and talent that we have in this province to make these life-changing procedures possible. It is for this reason that we cannot afford to fall behind but must continue to set the trend in investing in infrastructure and equipment.”

The same team under Dr Hellmuth Weich made the news with a similar procedure when they implanted the world's first "off-pump" (no heart bypass machine needed) tricuspid valve implant in 2010.

The team:

  • Cardiologists: Dr Hellmuth Weich (team leader) and Dr A Pecoraro
  • Cardiothoracic surgeons: Dr Jacques Janson and Dr Jacques van Wyk
  • Anaesthetist: Dr André Rocher
Media Enquiries: 

Laticia Pienaar
Communications Officer: Tygerberg Hospital
Western Cape Government Health
Tel: 021 938 5454
Email: laticia.pienaar@westerncape.gov.za

Dr Hellmuth Weich
Team leader
Cell: 084 682 8686