When Matthew Price, MD, placed a MitraClip in the heart of an 81-year-old San Diego woman Wednesday morning, the procedure marked the 100th time the Scripps Clinic interventional cardiologist implanted the innovative heart valve repair device since it was approved for commercial use in the United States three and a half years ago.
The procedure, performed at Scripps Clinic John R. Anderson V Medical Pavilion, marked an important milestone for Dr. Price: Only four other physicians on the West Coast have reached that volume number, and Dr. Price is the only one to do so in San Diego County.
“Because this is one of the highest volume centers on the West Coast, our team has built a track record of successfully treating patients with this innovative piece of technology,” Dr. Price said. “Using advanced imaging techniques and minimally invasive catheters, we have been able to dramatically improve the health and quality of life for many patients who otherwise couldn’t have been helped or would have had to go through an open-heart surgery with all of its attendant risk.”
The MitraClip is used to help patients who have a leaky mitral valve, which controls the flow of blood from the left ventricle into the left atrium. The problem is the most common type of heart valve defect, affecting nearly one in 10 people over the age of 75.
When the leaflets of the mitral valve become damaged or degraded from gradual tissue degeneration and no longer seal completely, blood can flow backward into the left atrium during each heartbeat, making the heart work harder than normal. Over time, larger leaks can lead to shortness of breath, fatigue and heart failure. Patients also face an increased risk of irregular heartbeat, stroke and heart attack.
Alternative to open-heart surgery
In the past, open-heart surgery offered the only option for fixing a faulty mitral valve. However, the MitraClip allows interventional cardiologists to close a portion of the valve and restore normal blood flow during a catheter-based, minimally invasive procedure on the beating heart.
Dr. Price has served as the principal investigator in several clinical trials for the catheter-based treatment of structural heart disease. Currently, Dr. Price is the only physician in San Diego County placing the MitraClip in heart failure patients with functional mitral regurgitation as part of a randomized clinical trial of the device for this difficult-to-treat patient population.
In high-risk surgical patients such as William Dennis, 83, of San Diego, the MitraClip can be a lifesaving device that restores quality of life when the patient’s health precludes open heart surgery to repair the valve.
Last fall, Dennis’ health was in a precarious state. Walking any distance produced a shortness of breath, he couldn’t climb stairs anymore and the former professional baseball player couldn’t get through a full round of golf.
“I would get dizzy if it was a hot day and I couldn’t finish playing,” he recalled.
He also had put on a lot of weight from the fluid that was building up in his body because of his poor blood flow. His Scripps Clinic cardiologist, Ajay Srivastava, MD, told him that something had to be done to repair his leaky mitral valve. Since open-heart surgery wasn’t an option due to his poor health, Dr. Srivastava referred him to Dr. Price, who implanted three MitraClips to fix the faulty valve.
Since the procedure, Dennis has lost more than 35 pounds and regained an active life.
“Now, I can make it up a couple flights of stairs without any problem,” he said. “I’m sleeping well. I’m eating well. I’m very comfortable.”
And he can make it through a full round of golf again.
“I can go all day without getting tired,” Dennis said. “It’s amazing.”
Learn more about Scripps Health, a nonprofit integrated health system in San Diego, Calif.