Herb Thau

Open-heart surgery poses a difficult road to recovery. There are risks of chest wound infection, pneumonia, and blood clotting, all of which are compounded by age and more common in patients who have had open-heart surgery before. So when Herb Thau, at age 84, learned he might need a second open-heart surgery, he felt scared and uncertain.

Herb’s doctors had determined that the porcine mitral valve in his heart – inserted in 2001 after he survived a heart attack – was failing. They warned him that another open-heart surgery would have about a one in six chance of killing him.

Still, Herb knew he needed to do something: for several months, he had experienced severe shortness of breath and low energy levels. His condition was making it more and more difficult to stay active and spend meaningful time with his family.

Fortunately, doctors identified a new medtech solution that would allow Herb to get the treatment he needed with just a single minimally invasive surgery. A mitral valve would be inserted through a catheter by a small incision in his groin area and guided through his body into his chest cavity.

The procedure had just received FDA approval 16 months ago. In fact, owing to the newness of the procedure, a group of doctors at a conference in China asked to watch Herb’s surgery via livestream, so they could implement the technique in their own hospitals. Herb graciously agreed to be their teacher.

Back at NYU Langone, Dr. Mathew Williams – under the attentive watch of the Chinese doctors –  completed Herb’s surgery in less than an hour, and Herb walked out of the hospital just 16 hours later. He immediately felt better, a weight lifted. The small stitched cut at the insertion site healed within a few days.

Now, Herb is back to living a fulfilling life, thanks to his dedicated health care team and successful surgery. Shortly after his surgery, he travelled to Massachusetts to attend a family wedding, one he was certain he would have to celebrate from his bed or from a hospital room. He’s able to do the things he loves with the people he loves every day.

As medical technology continues to advance, the way patients receive health care will continue to evolve. Medtech innovators are working hard to deliver treatments with quicker recovery times, less pain, and better outcomes, so people like Herb can live longer, healthier, and more productive lives.