HUNDREDS of patients have avoided the need for open heart surgery due to pioneering treatment.

Medics at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the first time it performed a specialist procedure to repair a heart valve.

The process, called transcatheter aortic valve implantation (Tavi) is used on patients thought to be too sick, frail or elderly to go through a major operation.

The team at Brighton, with is based at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, has treated more than 800 people since 2007.

The process improves quality of life and enables people to return to a more active lifestyle.

Instead of cutting into a patient’s chest,

surgeons reach the heart by cutting a hole in the groin and inserting a new valve from there.

The procedure can be carried out under local anaesthetic in less than an hour and patients recover more quickly when compared to open-heart surgery.

Among the patients to benefit is Derek Chatten, 85, from Portslade.

He had the procedure done in 2009 after experiencing breathlessness while walking and swimming.

He said: “I am so grateful to have had a Tavi. I was home after only three days.

“Immediately after having the procedure I could breathe easily again and was able to start walking again.

“Soon after I was able to swim a few lengths. I got my life back.

“I would strongly encourage anyone over 65 with breathlessness to go to their GP and ask for a stethoscope check, because I have learnt that this is a very easy way to check for heart valve disease.”

Consultant cardiologist David Hildick-Smith said: “In 2007 we were the third hospital in the UK to start implanting aortic valves without opening the chest.

“This therapy has been outstandingly successful.

“At a time when the NHS is under extreme pressure, this is a genuine good news story.”

Heart valve disease is a growing concern in the UK with its ageing population.

About 1.5 million people over the age of 65 are affected and this figure is expected to rise to 3.3 million by 2056.