MedWatch: MitraClip

Technology in medicine changes so quickly.

As doctors put those new techniques to use, some stand out as things that will soon become the norm.

In this month’s MedWatch, we learn about a heart procedure that doctors swear is the wave of the future.

Dr. Nick Slocum sees patients who have heart issues.

“It seems like our patients start with more simple cardiovascular issues in their 50s and 60s, but no matter what they started with heart failure ends up on their diagnosis list in their 70s, 80s, 90s,” explained Dr. Slocum.

When those patients are younger, open heart surgery is a more viable option and it’s typically the way the heart teams would fix a leaky mitral valve.

But for someone who’s already had open heart surgery or an older, sicker patient, that’s just not an option.

That’s where the new MitraClip comes in.

“It’s exciting for us because it really is a group of patients that did not have an option 5-10 year ago, and now they have an option, another thing we can do to make them feel better,” said Dr. Slocum.

These are typically people who are in their 80s, whose quality of life is suffering because of their condition.

“By far the most common complaint is shortness of breath during exercise. Some patients are also going to have swelling of their legs, edema and weight gain, because of that fluid retention,” explained Dr. Slocum.

Dr. Daniel Drake, cardiothoracic surgery, said, “It’s definitely a game changer. This is a fantastic option, especially for the elderly patient — the patient that’s had open heart surgery or the patients that would be considered high risk for open surgical procedures, so it’s a big deal.”

So far, the team at Munson Medical Center has done 10 of these surgeries with great success.

“The feedback we hear is the procedure is easier than they expected, the recovery was faster than they expected. The average person stays in the hospital 1-2 days, so that’s one of the big things,” explained Dr. Slocum.

The patient is under general anesthesia when the doctors access the heart through the groin.

There, they use an echocardiogram to see what they’re doing in real time, which is something these doctors have never been able to do before.

“We go down and sometimes know where the biggest leak is, and we go down and put a clip there, and sometimes we’re wrong. Sometimes we put a clip on and say, ‘Gosh, maybe we need to be a little more lateral’ and that’s where the conversation starts,” said Dr. Slocum. “You get to see it all happening. You know what you have and you kind of adjust, which is one of the coolest things about it.”

Dr. Drake and Dr. Slocum agree: this is where the future of heart surgeries is going, and they’re glad to be a part of it.

“It’s essential technology that we need in this day and age and nearly a billion dollars has been invested in this industry, so it’s coming down the pipeline extremely fast. It’s very exciting times,” explained Dr. Drake.

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