Abnormal heart murmur. Shortness of breath. Fatigue. Palpitations. These symptoms could indicate the presence of any number of heart conditions. But for roughly 4 million people in the United States, they point to the most prevalent heart valve disease in the country: mitral regurgitation (MR).
MR is a structural problem caused by degeneration of the mitral valve, which prevents blood from flowing the wrong way back into the heart. MR can lead to an enlarged heart and heart failure.
The most common treatment for MR is open heart surgery, but Scripps Health, a national leader in cardiac care, is participating in groundbreaking research to determine the efficacy of a minimally invasive technique to repair this leaky valve. Called the MitraClip™, the procedure uses a catheter inserted into the upper leg to repair the valve instead.
“Obviously, open-heart surgery has its risks and complications — it requires opening the chest and stopping the heart to complete the repair,” explains Matthew Price, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Scripps Clinic John R. Anderson V Medical Pavilion in La Jolla. “During the past 10 years, we have been very successful at repairing the mitral valve with a catheter rather than with surgery.”
“Personally, I have performed the MitraClip on over 500 patients. However, the procedure is currently indicated only for patients who are not candidates for surgery, due to age or other existing conditions that make them high risk or who have a leaky mitral valve due to a weak heart,” Dr. Price says.
“We are now participating in a clinical trial to determine if the MitraClip is as good — or even better — than open-heart surgery for people who are surgical candidates.”
Scripps Health is one of 60 sites in the United States and the only hospital system in the greater San Diego region participating in the REPAIR MR clinical study. It was selected for the high volume of patients in need, as well as its exceptional outcomes and reputation for excellence.
Scripps is leading the way in bench-to-bedside research with this and other clinical trials. Dr. Price is currently recruiting patients for this randomized trial, and he encourages anyone who has a leaky mitral value due to valve degeneration to talk to their doctors about the trial, and the potential benefits of the minimally invasive transcatheter procedure versus open-heart surgery.
“For this randomized study, we’re looking for symptomatic patients who are older than 75 or, if younger than 75, with modest risk of surgery,” Dr. Price says.
“The idea is to demonstrate that the MitraClip will be just as effective, safer, and provide as excellent an outcome and improvement in quality of life as surgery does, without the risks and recovery of open-heart surgery. Indeed, even older patients who are not candidates for surgery who get the MitraClip usually go home the next day following surgery.”