A specialist centre, based at the Royal Infirmary, became the only place in Scotland to provide Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) surgery in September.
The procedure is used for patients with aortic stenosis – a condition affecting three per cent of over 75s – who cannot have open heart surgery.
Seven patients have so far been operated on using TAVI and Dr Neal Uren, right, NHS Lothian’s clinical director for cardiac services, said he was “delighted” with the results.
He said: “The service has begun making a real difference to the lives of patients already. Without this procedure, these patients would not have been able to undergo treatment and their quality of life would continue to diminish.
“A total of seven people have undergone this groundbreaking procedure so far and as a team, we are delighted to be leading the Scottish service.
“The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh is ideally placed to deliver TAVI for Scotland because it has all key integrated cardiovascular services under one roof.”
The best treatment for aortic stenosis is to replace the faulty valve through open heart surgery, but some elderly patients are too ill to endure surgery or have a heart or blood vessels which are then rejected.
Instead, they can be offered the TAVI operation, which works by inserting a wire into the patient’s femoral artery through a hole in their groin.
The wire then works its way through the blood stream to the heart. A replacement heart valve then travels up the wire, where it is put into position and expands into shape, crushing the old valve to one side.
Among those to have been treated using the technique is 84-year-old Stephen Watters, who travelled to the Capital from his home in Glasgow. Lothian residents are also among the seven treated.
Mr Watters said: “I was too old for open heart surgery and it was too dangerous for me so thank God there was some other way of repairing my heart valve. It’s incredible really.
“My life would have been terrible without it.
“I’m not ready for a marathon just yet, but I am taking it each day at a time.”
Previously, Scottish patients who needed the TAVI operation had to travel to England. In the whole of 2011, just 15 Scottish patients were treated with the procedure, but seven have been treated in the Royal Infirmary in three months. It is thought that around 50 Scottish patients a year are likely to be sent to the Royal Infirmary, and the service could be rolled out to other sites if it proves a success. The results of the TAVI service at the Royal Infirmary will continue to be closely monitored over the next year, with some experts questioning the cost and outcomes of the procedure.
Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “Previously, this service was only available outside of Scotland and people had to travel to get it. I am pleased to see patients are already benefiting from this Scottish service.”