Statins May Help Blocked Heart Valves

Published Online: Tuesday, July 1, 2003

A new treatment may save patients from undergoing open-heart surgery for a clogged valve. Results from a preliminary study indicated that statins might be a first-line medical treatment for patients with a blocked aortic valve. Previously, physicians believed that when a diseased heart valve was blocked by calcium, the valve wore out.Yet, new research offers a different theory.

Researchers at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Ill, and at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota suggest that an active process in the valve, similar to hardening of the arteries, is responsible for blocking the aortic valve. The latest findings confirmed results from a previous study with rabbits that showed that high cholesterol levels can lead to fatty deposits that harden and narrow the aortic valve, according to cardiologist Nalini Rajamannan, MD, who helped lead the research.

Dr. Rajamannan said that these findings, combined with those of earlier studies showing that statins slowed the growth of aortic valve disease in patients, suggest that the drugs might help patients in the early stages of aortic valve disease. In the study, published in the May 6, 2003, issue of Circulation, researchers examined human aortic valves salvaged after valve replacement surgery and compared them with normal valves recovered during heart transplant surgery. Then the researchers did genetic testing on the calcium deposits and discovered a type of organized bone formation in the diseased aortic valves. Dr. Rajamannan?s theory, however, still requires a widespread clinical study.

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