UW cardiologists develop tool to remove heart tumors without scalpels

Physicians from the UW Heart Institute were the first to use a special tool delivered through a catheter to remove a benign tumor from a person’s heart, thereby avoiding the need for open-heart surgery.

It’s not often tumors appear in a person’s heart. And when they do, there’s only one way to remove them: open-heart surgery. While that invasive procedure does the trick, it requires a patient to spend nearly a week in the hospital followed by a long recovery. But that could become a thing of the past.

Two interventional cardiologists at the UW Heart Institute were the first to use a basket-shaped, catheter-delivered tool to remove a benign tumor from a heart. After first using electrocautery to cut the 1.3-by-1.7cm tumor away from Tim Holland’s right atrium wall, they used the new tool—known as the “endovascular retrieval system”—to grab, compress and remove it in one piece.

Before this tool came along (the device was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May), surgeons had to crack open a patient’s sternum and place the patient on a heart-lung machine to extract the benign tumor. Dr. James McCabe, one of the two UW clinical professors who performed the procedure, says, “He went home the same day. We didn’t need to put him on a heart-lung machine, and he didn’t spend five days in the hospital. I think we just saved Mr. Holland a lot of money and anxiety.” And isn’t this is what innovation is all about?