The heart is comprised of four main chambers and four valves that all must work in coordination with one another to provide rhythmic, one-way blood flow. However, there are times when the valves of the heart may become damaged or have a structural defect that impedes its ability to function properly, leading to blood flow hindrances and complications. These scenarios are known as valve disease, and they are categorized based on both the valve they affect and their associated symptoms.
Among all forms of valve disease, mitral regurgitation (MR) is the most common and presents a serious and ongoing threat to patient health. In the condition, the mitral valve located between the heart’s left atrium and left ventricle does not close properly. In turn, some blood is forced back up into the atrium when the ventricle contracts. Over time, the left atrium enlarges in order to accommodate the additional blood. Likewise, the ventricle also dilates as it attempts to meet its increased blood flow demands. Eventually, serious complications including arrhythmia, pulmonary hypertension, and heart failure may occur.
How Does the MitraClip Treat Mitral Regurgitation?
Mitral regurgitation is treated based on its severity. For some patients, symptoms may be well-managed with medications such as diuretics, although these medicines will not treat the underlying condition. For others whose MR and associated symptoms are more severe, surgical treatment may be needed to repair or replace the damaged valve. In the past, this was accomplished through open heart surgery, a major surgical procedure involving a large incision in the chest and extensive recovery. Even those options deemed minimally invasive still require smaller incisions in the chest and leave out many patients as potential candidates.
Fortunately, a far less-invasive treatment option for MR is now available in the form of the MitraClip, a small clip that is attached to the mitral valve, allowing it to close more fully and reduce regurgitation. Unlike other surgical options, the MitraClip is a form of transcatheter mitral valve repair. Rather than requiring incisions in the chest, the clip is guided and positioned through a catheter placed in the blood vessel of groin. In clinical studies, the procedure has shown reduced hospital stays and a 73 percent reduction in hospital visits for heart failure in treated patients.
Who is a Candidate for the MitraClip?
Despite its level of invasiveness, valve repair or replacement through traditional surgery is still preferable when available. However, there are many patients for whom such a surgical procedure could be too dangerous, and in these cases, the MitraClip represents a potential alternative.
Determining if a patient is a good candidate for the MitraClip procedure involves a detailed screening process including an echocardiogram, electrocardiogram, CT scan, blood tests, and more. Those who are deemed to be eligible for the procedure will be those who are unable to withstand a major surgical procedure but who are also found to be free of infection and blood clots, are able to tolerate blood thinners, and whose mitral regurgitation is not the result of rheumatic fever.
If you suffer from mitral regurgitation, it is important that you understand both the severity of your condition and your treatment options. The cardiologists at Cardiovascular Institute of the South can help you better understand the nature of your condition and which therapies may be most beneficial, including the MitraClip procedure. Click below to locate a clinic and physician near you, and request your appointment today.