Heart care is in the midst of a transformation. Many problems that once required sawing through the breastbone and opening up the chest for open heart surgery now can be treated with a nip, twist or patch through a tube.
All rely on catheters — hollow tubes that let doctors burn away and reshape heart tissue or correct defects through small holes in blood vessels.
"This is the replacement for the surgeon's knife. Instead of opening the chest, we're able to put catheters in through the leg, sometimes through the arm," said Dr. Spencer King of St. Joseph's Heart and Vascular Institute in Atlanta. He is former president of the American College of Cardiology. Its conference earlier this month featured research on these novel devices.