A specialist centre that treats patients too ill for open-heart surgery is making a real difference, a leading doctor has said.

The centre at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh was created for carrying out life-saving surgery to replace faulty heart valves.

Seven people have undergone the trans- catheter aortic valve implantation (Tavi) procedure since it was established in September.

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Dr Neal Uren, clinical director for cardiac services in NHS Lothian, said: "The service has begun making a real difference to the lives of patients already and we are delighted to see how well they have recovered." Before the centre was created, patients had to travel out of Scotland for the procedure.

Tavi, considered less invasive than open-heart surgery, involves a replacement valve being passed through a hole in the groin and advanced up to the ascending aorta (artery) of the patient.

The operation is expected to be suitable for about 50 patients a year.

Stephen Watters, 84, a retired publican from Glasgow, said: "My life would have been terrible without it. I'm not ready for a marathon just yet but I am taking it each day at a time."