AN 89-YEAR-OLD Holbeach woman has become the first in the country to benefit from a new keyhole heart valve operation.
Edna Watkins, of Fairfields, is now recovering at home after the ground-breaking procedure which saw a new type of valve fitted as part of a research trial.
The valve allows surgeons to reposition or even remove it to ensure it is optimally placed – something that was not possible with earlier designs.
Mrs Watkins, who was becoming increasingly breathless as the result of age-related degeneration of her aortic valve, was chosen for the new procedure after a rigorous selection process.
She said: “My consultant told me that I needed the procedure done quickly otherwise I may become too unwell to get through the operation.
“When I was given the information sheet about this new valve trial I was happy to take part and by doing this I will hopefully help other people in the future.
“I feel a lot better and I haven’t had any pain at all since the procedure, just a little discomfort. I feel as though I’m on the mend.”
Mrs Watkins is hoping the operation will allow her to return to one of her great passions – painting.
She added: “I’m hoping to pick up the reins and do a little bit more than I was able to do before.
“I also used to do quite a bit of dancing, but I don’t know if I will manage that again, but I should be able to manage paiting.
The operation was carried out by Dr Jan Kovac, a consultant cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, which was chosen to carry out the research trials by St Jude Medical, a company that develops medical technology.
The trans catheter aortic valve implant (TAVI) procedure involves inserting a new valve inside the existing aortic valve using keyhole surgery to help patients with their breathing.
It is less invasive than open heart surgery, which means more patients can benefit.
Dr Kovac said: “This new valve is designed to allow us to slowly release it in a controlled manner, reposition or even remove it completely and put it in place again to make sure it fits perfectly.
“We are really pleased to have been given the opportunity to use this new technology to benefit our patients.
“It has important benefits to our patients as it gives more choice and the ability to help a wider range of patients.”