'Harpoon' Device Eliminates Open Heart Surgery For Mitral Valve Repairs

A new device may revolutionize the world of mitral valve repair, making it possible for surgeons to fix this particular heart problem without having to perform open heart surgery. According to researchers investigating the device, which is called 'harpoon,' it has shown 100-percent performance and safety for this medical purpose. Unlike open heart surgery, using the image-guided contraption is safer for the patient, less physically taxing, and requires much less recovery time. In fact, the researchers estimate someone could leave the hospital the day after a mitral valve repair is performed with Harpoon.

According to the University of Maryland, traditional mitral valve repair surgery is risky business, and involves things like opening the patient's chest, stopping the heart, and using a bypass machine to keep circulation going. Because of the extensive procedures, the patient can take multiple months to fully recover from the surgery, not to mention the long surgery time and high levels of pain afterward.

Much of that changes with Harpoon, a device that looks somewhat like a glue gun with a wand sticking out the front; it was created by Harpoon Medical Inc, a company based out of Baltimore, and it is currently labelled as an "investigative device," which means you won't yet find it in use at your local hospital.

To use Harpoon, a surgeon inserts the wand-like appendage into a still-beating heart through a very small incision. From there, echocardiographic imaging is used to guide the wand to the defective mitral valve and an artificial cord is applied to correct the blood flow issue. Some human trials have taken place, and doctors report success. It isn't clear whether the device is currently being considered for FDA approval in the US.

SOURCE: University of Maryland Medical Center