On a cold, bright January morning I walked south across Westminster Bridge to St Thomas’ Hospital, an institution with a proud tradition of innovation: I was there to observe a procedure generally regarded as the greatest advance in cardiac surgery since the turn of the millennium – and one that can be performed without a surgeon.
The patient was a man in his 80s with aortic stenosis, a narrowed valve which was restricting outflow from the left ventricle into the aorta. His heart struggled to pump sufficient blood through the reduced aperture, and the muscle of the affected ventricle had thickened as the organ tried to compensate. If left unchecked, this would eventually lead to heart failure.
For a healthier patient the solution would be simple: an operation to remove the diseased valve and replace it with a prosthesis.
Read more: Robot hearts: medicine’s new frontier