SOUTH AFRICA— Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town has achieved another milestone as a team of doctors successfully performed a groundbreaking procedure to repair a patient’s leaky heart valve.

The Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness revealed that the procedure, known as the Tootsie Roll technique, took place on April 10, marking the first time this innovative treatment has been employed for this type of prosthetic heart valve.

The procedure involves inserting a thin catheter through an artery in the groin, reaching up to the heart, where a small tubular stent is deployed to address the defect.

 Inside the tubular stent, a plug designed to block arteries is then deployed, earning it the nickname “Tootsie Roll” after the American tubular chocolate bar.

The patient, 86-year-old Nathan Yamey, had previously received a transcatheter aortic valve implant (TAVI), a minimally invasive heart valve replacement, in 2023.

 Yamey suffered from significant blood leakage around the valve, leading to severe shortness of breath.

Traditional measures proved ineffective, prompting consideration of a procedure involving placing a small plug adjacent to the valve.

While technically demanding and often unsuccessful, a recent variation of the procedure, detailed in a March 2024 publication in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, indicated potential effectiveness in treating transcatheter heart valve (THV)–related paravalvular leak (PVL).

However, according to the hospital department, this variation had not been tested on Yamey’s specific type of THV.

Dr. Hellmuth Weich, the treating cardiologist, emphasized that this case marked the first application of the technique to this specific valve type, resulting in immediate success with complete cessation of the leak.

He expressed optimism that the Tootsie Roll technique could yield superior outcomes for this issue and potentially become the hospital’s preferred method.

Yamey was discharged the following day and is already anticipating his return to golf, a significant improvement from his previous state of exhaustion and lack of energy.

On his part, Yamey expressed gratitude to the team of doctors for their care and highlighted the noticeable difference in his well-being following the procedure.

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