New clip helps regulate faulty heart valves

SOUTH BEND, Ind.--- When a person's heart valves don't close tightly enough blood can leak into the heart and lungs.

The condition is known as Mitral Regurgitation and affects about 4 million people in the U.S.

For those with severe MR, open heart surgery used to be the only option.

But now a new FDA approved device is helping the sickest patients.

Alice Comer is thankful to show off pictures of her grand kids.

After her second open heart surgery two years ago her heart valve started leaking and filling her lungs with fluid.

"I was in and out of the hospital about every 2 weeks, sometimes every week,” said Alice. “Taking a needle that long, going in your back and drawing the fluid out. It was awful."

But Alice was too sick for another open heart surgery.

"They said it would kill me," said Alice.

Instead Dr. Mark Stankewicz, an interventional cardiologist at St. Thomas, offered her a new treatment known as Mitraclip.

Mitraclip involves a catheter that is guided through the leg vein to the heart valve where the Mitraclip is set, clipping it together.

"There is no incision, the heart is not stopped, it's beating the whole time," said Dr. Stankewicz.

Unlike traditional surgery, where patients will spend at least a week in the hospital recovering, patients with Mitraclip are generally up the same day and often go home the day after.

It worked for Alice. She now has no shortness of breath or any other symptoms.

"I don't feel tied down and I do about everything I want to do," said Comber.


TOPIC: A New Life-Saving "Clip" for the Heart
REPORT: MB #3790

BACKGROUND: Congestive heart failure or CHF affects about 5 million Americans every year, according to the National Institute of Health. It can happen at any age but it is more common in older people. The heart is not able to pump blood to the rest of the body at a normal rate. A healthy heart pumps 50 percent of the blood in the ventricle in one beat. An abnormal heart pumps 40 percent or less of the blood in the ventricle in one beat. When this happens excess blood and fluid can back up into the lungs. This causes the congestion. The lack of blood being supplied to the body causes symptoms of heart failure. Another common heart problem that affects about 4 million people in the United States is mitral regurgitation. This is a condition in which the heart valve that separates the upper and lower chambers on the left side of the heart don't close properly. It may begin suddenly with a heart attack. If the regurgitation does not go away it becomes chronic. (Source:

SIGNS/SYMPTOMS: According to the Mayo Clinic, congestive heart failure needs lifelong treatments. Doctors can sometimes correct the condition by repairing a heart valve or controlling a fast rhythm could reverse the heart failure. But, typically, the treatment involves the right medication and devices that help the heart beat and contract properly. Some of the medications are angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, digoxin, diuretics, and beta blockers. Congestive heart failure is caused by a weakened or damaged heart because the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart narrow. High blood pressure and infections that weaken the heart muscle can also lead to congestive heart failure. Mitral valve regurgitation can be caused by valve collapse, damaged tissue cords, rheumatic fever and untreated high blood pressure. (Source:

NEW TECHNOLOGY: A new treatment is now being tested on patients with congestive heart failure and MR. It's called the MitraClip. It's another option for patients who are not candidates for invasive open heart surgery. The doctors use a catheter-based technology to repair the mitral valve with a groin puncture. The MitraClip is positioned by grasping both leaflets of the mitral valve. The MitraClip device is left in place and the delivery catheter is removed. This does not require the patient to undergo cardiopulmonary bypass or the need for chest incisions. Doctors at Saint Thomas Heart say the procedure shortens recovery time and improves problems with fatigue and shortness of breath. According to the FDA this treatment should not be used in patients with endocarditis, rheumatic mitral valve disease, blood clots at the intended site of the implant and patients who can't tolerate blood thinners. (Source:


Joe Hagan
Marketing Director
Saint Thomas Heart
Office: (615) 284-5641

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