Robert Kurinsky, a 74-year-old retiree from Oak Brook, Illinois, had been treating his slowly deteriorating heart valve since 2012 primarily through medication.
A Northwestern Medicine cardiac surgeon was the first in Illinois and second in the United States to implant a sutureless aortic valve in a patient with coronary artery disease through a newly U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved, minimally invasive delivery system.
‘Open heart surgery is the preferred method for valve replacement but increasingly cardiologists are turning to minimally invasive approaches.’
Patrick McCarthy, MD, executive director of Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute and chief of cardiac surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, led the team that implanted the aortic valve in Robert Kurinsky.
"Using this newly approved valve system helped replace Mr. Kurinsky's valve in only 12 minutes, which means less trauma to the body and a quicker recovery time," said Dr. McCarthy, who is also the Heller-Sacks Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "The valve opening is slightly larger than a standard valve, a positive feature for heart function in the coming years. We are always looking to find the safest and most effective means of treating our patients, and I was pleased we could offer this option to Mr. Kurinsky days after the FDA approved it."
Traditionally, open heart surgery is the preferred method for valve replacement but increasingly cardiologists and cardiac surgeons are turning to minimally invasive approaches, a critical sea change in the field of cardiac care. Dr. McCarthy led the clinical trial at Northwestern Medicine Feinberg School of Medicine for the new valve prior to its approval by the FDA.
The FDA approved, in August 2016, the advanced EDWARDS INTUITY Elite valve system, a deployment device that incorporates some elements of transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a minimally invasive valve replacement system.
Kurinsky said he was thrilled to learn of a less invasive option to replace his aortic valve just days before his scheduled surgery. His wife Carol Kurinsky said she could not believe when he picked up the phone in the intensive care unit and said hello the morning after the surgery. She had left him late the night before and he was on a breathing tube.
"I was told my aortic valve was closing, and we came to Northwestern for a second opinion," said Kurinsky, who works part-time as a golf starter and is an avid international traveler, two avocations he plans to return to soon. "Coming to Northwestern and Dr. McCarthy was the best decision we made."
Northwestern Medicine's Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute is one of the top 10 national programs for cardiology and heart surgery, according to U.S. News and World Report, and consistently ranked the top cardiovascular program in Chicago, Illinois and the surrounding states.