Problems with mitral valves are typically treated with open surgery. But there are many older and weaker patients who cannot tolerate such a surgery and need an alternative.
Now there's a new minimally-invasive catheter-based procedure involving a half-inch long clip called the MitraClip to fix the problem.
Mitral valve prolapse is a condition where the valve flaps that prevent blood from flowing back into the heart do not close properly. If this condition, called mitral regurgitation, is not taken care of it can lead to heart failure and an enlarged heart.
"The valve leaflets can become thick and lose their support structures over the years and the valve function gets progressively worse," said Dr. Stephen Little, director of the Valve Clinic at Houston Methodist Hospital. "This causes the valve to prolapse, or slip forward, instead of closing properly, allowing blood to flow backwards toward the lungs instead of through the body."
Little says this procedure involves inserting a small catheter through the groin and going up into the heart with the MitraClip. Cardiologists then clip the leaflets in the middle, allowing the valve to close properly.
"While open mitral valve repair surgery is best for most people, this surgery is best for those older patients who are not strong enough for open surgery," Little said. "Also, younger patients who have other medical conditions that would make open surgery very risky."
Mitral valve prolapse can cause a variety of symptoms such as a racing or irregular heartbeat, dizziness or lightheadedness, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath when either lying down or performing every day activities, fatigue, and/or chest pain.
"This new catheter-based heart valve repair procedure has been proven to be extremely safe," Little said. "It gives people who had no options before a chance at getting back to living life and doing what they love."
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