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Fixing Hearts

02/19/18

Heart Health

What were once life-threatening and life-altering heart conditions are now easily treatable, thanks to the latest advances in heart surgery.

Structural heart disease is common and can now be corrected with minimally invasive procedures, says Nicholas Ruggiero, II, MD, director of Structural Heart Disease and Non-Coronary Interventions at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Structural heart disease is a defect or abnormality of the heart’s valves, walls, or chambers. Many conditions are present at birth, but it is also common for these abnormalities to occur later in life due to wear and tear from aging, infection, or other underlying conditions.

As the population ages, the number of people with structural heart problems will continue to rise; in fact, studies show that more than 1 in 8 people over age 75 will have moderate or severe aortic stenosis, caused by the narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve.

Not long ago, the only option for valvular disease was open heart surgery. Fortunately, today aortic valves can be replaced during a simple procedure.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to return people to the life they lived prior to their disease,” Ruggiero says. “I’ve seen patients who were in wheelchairs and on oxygen dance at their grandchild’s wedding or return to the golf course. That’s what it’s all about.”