Virginia Anderer, a native of Chicago, never thought she would see her beloved city again due to her failing heart which prevented her from traveling. But the 84-year-old Southern California resident was recently able to return to the Windy City – with her doctor’s blessing – thanks in part to a minimally invasive device that has the potential to fix her leaky heart valve.
Anderer was the first patient in San Diego and at Scripps Health to receive a MitraClip as part of the Clinical Outcomes Assessment of the MitraClip Percutaneous Therapy for High Surgical Risk Patients (COAPT) Trial. The MitraClip device is designed to reduce significant mitral regurgitation by clipping together the leaflets of the mitral valve (one of the four valves of the heart). This condition occurs when the heart’s mitral valve doesn’t close tightly.
“Traditionally, there have been no good treatment options available for patients, like Mrs. Anderer, who suffer from significant mitral regurgitation and are too high risk for surgery,” said Dr. Matthew Price, who implanted the MitraClip device as principal investigator for COAPT at Scripps Clinic. “Now, using advanced imaging techniques and catheters, we were able to repair Mrs. Anderer’s leaking heart valve without the need for open-heart surgery.”
Living with mitral regurgitation
Mitral regurgitation (MR) is the most common type of heart valve defect, affecting approximately one in 10 people aged 75 years and older. The condition occurs when the leaflets of the mitral valve do not close completely, causing blood to flow backward and leak into the left atrium of the heart during each heart beat.
To maintain an adequate forward flow of blood throughout the body, the heart compensates by increasing the size of the left ventricle, the main pumping chamber of the heart. This requires the heart to work harder, and may ultimately lead to irregular heartbeats, stroke, heart attack or death. MR may also lead to heart failure, a potentially deadly condition that occurs when the heart is unable to pump sufficiently to distribute blood flow to meet the needs of the body.
In Anderer’s case, she was experiencing significant shortness of breath that was getting progressively worse and having a detrimental effect on her quality of life. She was no longer benefiting from medication and, because of her age and medical history, open heart surgery was not an option.
“My Scripps cardiologist, Dr. James Heywood, thought I would be a good candidate for this device, and once it was explained to me, it sounded like a great option,” said the retired nurse who underwent the procedure on June 14 at Scripps Green Hospital and was discharged two days later.
And less than two weeks after her procedure and on a speedy road to recovery, Anderer boarded a plane to her hometown of Chicago to visit with her sister, son and grandchildren – something that she said she would not have had the strength to do before.
How the MitraClip works
Manufactured by Abbott, MitraClip therapy is designed to reduce MR and provide clinical and quality-of-life benefits for patients suffering from the debilitating symptoms of significant MR by clipping together a portion of the leaflets of the mitral valve. The device is delivered to the heart through the femoral vein, a blood vessel in the leg.
“By reducing MR, the hope is that this therapy may allow the heart to recover from overwork and improve function, potentially halting the progression of heart failure and enabling patients to live a higher-quality life,” said Dr. Price.
MitraClip is currently under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and is commercially available in approximately 30 countries, with more than 9,000 patients treated to date. The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) 2012 heart failure guidelines and the ESC/European Association for Cardio-Thoracic Surgery 2012 guidelines for the management of valvular heart disease specify the MitraClip device as a treatment option for high surgical risk patients with MR.
Those interested in learning more about the COAPT trial can call 858-554-5209.
This study is an extension of Scripps Health’s leadership in heart care and research. Scripps is currently building the $456 million Prebys Cardiovascular Institute, a center for innovation that will bring together top researchers, physicians and staff. The institute will incorporate leading-edge wireless technologies and individualized medicine for the best in patient care when it opens in 2015. Annually, more than 55,000 patients receive their cardiovascular care from Scripps, making it San Diego County’s largest heart care provider. Scripps is the region’s only cardiovascular program consistently recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best in the country.
Learn more about Scripps Health, a nonprofit integrated health system in San Diego, Calif.