Can a new groundbreaking procedure replace open heart surgery for some patients? Less-invasive treatments for heart disease may soon become an alternative to open heart surgery, according to a study published in the Journal of Interventional Cardiology.

In a new technique similar to angioplasty, a catheter or ring is placed in the left atrium of the heart which can significantly reduce mitral regurgitation (MR), the leaking of blood through the heart's mitral valve into the left atrium or upper heart chamber.

"The procedure has been accomplished safely and a significant reduction in MR has been achieved in the majority of patients treated," says Dr. Ted Feldman, the study's lead researcher.

Over 50,000 mitral valve surgical procedures are performed annually, but open surgery can be an undesirable option for high-risk and older patients. The new treatment is particularly suited for the higer risk patients.

The journal calls this technique a groundbreaking step in the development of new therapies.

Mitral regurgitation is a serious condition, affecting as many as 250,000 Americans with valvular heart disease. An additional two million Americans with other heart diseases experience the condition.

Some symptoms of MR include:

—Shortness of breath

—Difficulty breathing when lying flat

—Fatigue

—Nocturnal coughing

Clearly the future of heart surgery is changing and less invasive techniques may be the way of the future.

Dr. Manny Alvarez is the managing editor of health news at Foxnews.com, and is a regular medical contributor on the FOX News Channel. He is chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Additionally, Alvarez is Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Click here for more information on Dr. Manny's work with Hackensack University Medical Center. Visit AskDrManny.com for more.