MSAC recommends funding for innovative heart valve procedure

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The Medical Services Advisory Committee has recommended funded access for transcatheter aortic valve implantation.

Edwards Lifesciences and Medtronic requested the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) listing of transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) for patients with symptomatic severe aortic stenosis (AS) at low risk for surgery.

Severe aortic stenosis is a condition that stops blood from flowing easily throughout the body. Eventually, this can lead to heart failure because the aortic valve develops a severe build-up of calcium.

TAVI is a procedure that helps to improve a damaged aortic valve. During a procedure, an artificial valve made of natural animal heart tissue - usually from a cow or a pig - is implanted into the heart. However, rather than standard open-heart surgery, a catheter is placed in the femoral artery and guided into the heart.

"MSAC had already largely accepted that TAVI is a safe and effective procedure, and is better value for money than surgical aortic valve replacement (open heart surgery) in the short term," said the committee in its consumer summary.

"...MSAC considered TAVI is likely to be as safe and as effective as surgery in the longer-term."

The committee added, "MSAC noted that expanding the listing of TAVI would increase the number of TAVI procedures and protheses funded by private health insurance providers. MSAC requested the Department advise private insurance providers of this recommendation."