Strong heart valves open completely, let blood flow to the next chamber, and then close to prevent blood from flowing backward. But diseased or damaged heart valves must work harder to maintain proper blood flow. The Simulus Semi-Rigid Annuloplasty Ring from ATS Medical, Inc., a Twin Cities company recently purchased by Medtronic in Fridley, can be used to tighten the area around a valve that has been replaced.
The Annuloplasty Ring assists the patient’s mitral valve (which leads to the left ventricle) in opening and closing. A damaged valve may be too wide so that the valve flaps are too far apart to close completely. The ring can reshape or tighten the valve so that it functions correctly. The device can also be used when a faulty valve is repaired through a small incision in the patient’s chest, which is preferable to traditional open heart surgery, in which the breastbone must be opened.
The ring is made of braided polyester material that makes it easy for the surgeon to sew it into place. Visual markers—thin, transparent plastic sizers—make it possible to place the ring with robotic assistance or by hand. It comes in nine sizes and can flex between flat and saddle shapes to mimic the heart valve’s opening and closing movements.