Alternative To Open Heart Surgery: Interventional Cardiologists Seek New Ways Without Surgery

Interventional cardiologists created an alternative to open heart surgery by developing a mitral valve clip. To alleviate mitral valve regurgitation–a condition where the heart’s mitral valve does not close properly, allowing blood to leak back into the heart–cardiologists insert a catheter into the patient’s groin that travels up into the mitral valve.

The clip is fed through this catheter, where it finally grasps and tightens the valves’ leaflets–effectively preventing blood from leaking. The clip remains in place while the catheter is removed, the entire procedure taking approximately two hours and recovery a few weeks. The procedure is good for those with weaker hearts, when traditional surgery is more dangerous.

Chances are you know someone who has had heart problems. In fact, one in five people over the age of 55 has a problem with their mitral valve. A new alternative to open heart surgery can get their blood flowing again.
Nothing keeps 77-year-old Josephine Herndon from shopping, but her hobby was slowed down by a heart problem called mitral regurgitation.

“In the store, I sat down, and I was breathing pretty heavily,” said Herndon. “I could barely make it back to the car.”
Mitral regurgitation is a condition in which the heart’s mitral valve doesn’t close tightly, allowing blood to flow backward into the heart.
“I had a leaky valve and didn’t even know it,” Herndon said.

A lot of these patients have shortness of breath,” said George Hanzel, M.D., an interventional cardiologist at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. “The main thing they have is fatigue, exercise intolerance, shortness of breath and swelling.”

Herndon was one of the first patients in the United States to have the mitral clip procedure. First, interventional cardiologists inserted a catheter into her groin up into the mitral valve. Next, a clip was fed through. The clip grasped and tightened the valves’ leaflets, preventing blood from leaking. “By pulling them together and approximating them, it reduces the leakiness,” Dr. Hanzel said.

The clip stays and keeps blood from leaking, and the catheter is removed. The procedure takes two hours, the same as for open-heart surgery. The difference is in the recovery — down from months to just weeks.
“Patients typically say they feel better,” Dr. Hanzel said. “They can breathe better. They can do more without having to stop and rest.”

Herndon’s mitral regurgitation was reduced from severe to trivial, and she’s back looking for bargains again. “I always did love to go shopping,” Herdon said.

The mitral clip procedure is good for patients who have a weak heart and may not make it through traditional surgery.

The procedure is being investigated in clinical trials in 38 hospitals across USA.

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