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.
These minimal procedures used to be done just to unclog arteries and correct less common heart rhythm problems. Now some patients are getting such repairs for valves, irregular heartbeats, holes in the heart and other defects — without major surgery. Doctors even are testing ways to treat high blood pressure with some of these new approaches.
All rely on catheters — hollow tubes that let doctors burn away and reshape heart tissue or correct defects through small holes into blood vessels.