Catheter techniques have been shown to offer a new lease of life to those who are too ill for open-chest surgery but require replacement aortic valves.
The CoreValve system is performed by threading a delivery catheter through the femoral artery in the groin and into the aorta in the opposite direction to the flow of blood.
Once the catheter is positioned in the opening of the aortic valve, it is pulled back to release the CoreValve, a self-expanding frame with a new tissue valve attached.
As it expands, the CoreValve covers the disease's natural valve leaflets.
Of the 17 patients with severely narrowed aortic valves who were involved in testing the procedure, one died five days later following a stroke and five died from unrelated health problems.
However, the severity of heart failure was found to improve and after the procedure, patients were able to conduct a moderate level of activity before becoming short of breath.