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What began as an educational trip ended up with a momentous medical first for Colorado State University. During the first week of January, a team led by Dr. Chris Orton, veterinary cardiothoracic surgeon, traveled to China to meet with leaders from the Shanghai Hanyu Medical Technology Company. The CSU team planned to learn more about a new device to treat dogs with mitral regurgitation, a leak of the valve between the left ventricle and the left atrium of the heart, and a common condition in older dogs.

Following initial meetings, the CSU team was asked to perform a procedure using the new device on a 7-year-old miniature schnauzer named Datou, or Big Head. “He was in an advanced stage of heart failure and had perhaps a few months to live,” said Orton, also a professor of clinical sciences at CSU. Following the procedure, the CSU team stayed in Shanghai for several days to help with Datou’s recovery. They returned to the United States on Jan. 9. “This was the first successful beating-heart mitral valve repair in a dog with severe mitral regurgitation,” Orton said. The need for this type of medical breakthrough in the veterinary realm is huge, said Orton, because mitral regurgitation is the most common heart disease in older dogs, affecting 7% of all canines.

The biggest unmet need in canine cardiology
While there are a number of ways to treat humans with this condition, including open heart surgery and other minimally invasive procedures, similar treatments for animals are very expensive and not available everywhere. Open heart surgery for canines with mitral regurgitation is offered at CSU, in the United Kingdom and Japan on a limited basis. Veterinarians at CSU have worked for nearly 10 years to find new ways to treat this condition.

“We’ve been looking for ways to treat this extremely common condition, rather than just treating their heart failure medically until they die,” Orton said. “If Datou keeps the improvement that he’s had, it could change his prognosis from weeks to months to potentially several years.” Other members of the CSU team that helped with the procedure include Dr. Brianna Potter, cardiology fellow, Dr. Bernard Chi from cardiology, and Ellen Shaub, a veterinary technician from the anesthesia team at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Chi and Potter said the team was “extremely excited” following the successful procedure. “Hopefully this new procedure will be much more available and much more affordable,” said Orton. “This is the biggest unmet need in canine cardiology,” he said. CSU will train other U.S. veterinary medical centers in the use of the new device.
Story written by Mary Guiden