At 86, Dr. Isaac Hariton is back to walking three miles a day since getting a new aortic valve this past June. To avoid surgery, this retired surgeon traveled to Cali, Columbia, for his procedure.
"Instead of opening up all your chest, suturing your heart and open heart, this is a procedure which is much less traumatic," he said.
Hariton's doctor is Eduardo de Marchena, an MD from the University of Miami, who traveled with him to implant a valve not FDA approved for use in this country.
"This valve was approved in 2007 in Europe and since then, many other places in the world. It’s just beginning trials in the U.S.," said de Marchena.
The Core Valve is made out of a special metal that compresses in cold water so it can be inserted in a tube through an artery in the groin.
"So we therefore can put a large device such as this in the heart with a tine hole the size of my finger tip," said de Marchena.
When the valve is in place and exposed to body temperature, it returns to its original shape "with the heart beating and the patient sedated but conscious" adds Dr. de Marchena.
Soon the Core valve will be available at UM/Jackson Memorial Hospital. Doctors are hoping to start a study later this month but patients must meet strict requirements: critical stenosis or obstruction of the aortic valve, symptoms such as extreme fatigue, very high risk for surgery or inoperable.
Dr. Hariton wouldn’t have qualified for the study, so he and his wife of 62 years traveled to another country and paid $51,000. Insurance won’t cover the cost until it's FDA approved and that could take years.