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St. Mary offers new heart valve treatment option


The cardiology team at St. Mary Medical Center recently became one of the first health systems in the region to offer MitraClip therapy – a minimally invasive treatment option for people with a moderate to severe leak in the mitral valve and who are considered too high-risk for traditional open heart surgery.

The condition, called mitral regurgitation (MR), is the most common problem of the heart valves. The recommended method of treatment for MR is through an open-heart valve replacement surgery. However, not everyone can tolerate open heart surgery because they may not be healthy enough for surgery, or they have serious medical conditions that increase the risk of surgery.

The mitral valve is a valve in the left side of the heart with two flaps. Blood flows when the valve opens and closes during contraction and when pressure builds. A leak in the mitral valve occurs when the flaps do not close completely, allowing blood to flow back into the heart as it pumps. As a result, the heart has to work harder to keep blood flowing, which raises the risk for life-threatening stroke and heart failure. When MR becomes severe, it can profoundly affect a person’s quality of life by causing shortness of breath, extreme fatigue and other debilitating symptoms.

The small MitraClip device is guided into place using a thin tube (or catheter) inserted through a small puncture in a leg vein. The clip is then attached to the flaps of the mitral valve to help it close more completely and restore normal blood flow. Patients tend to have a short hospital stay and experience improved heart function and symptoms almost immediately.