Cardiologists develop easier procedure for leaky heart valves in seniors

Author: Amy Oshier Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

A team of cardiologists at Swedish Medical Center in Washington is leading the way in a minimally invasive procedure for seniors with leaky heart valves.

More than 85 million people in the U.S. suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease. Among that number, those 75 years old and above are at the greatest risk, although open heart surgery often poses serious complications to them.

After facing a life-threatening heart condition, the only thing on Arlington Carter has on his mind now is his next tee time.

“I was out to the golf course this morning, swinging for the first time in 4 1/2 years,” Carter said.

Carter had a leaky heart valve, also known as valve regurgitation. The condition occurs when the mitral valve doesn’t close properly, causing blood to flow backward instead of forward and pushing it back to the lungs.

“Once you get above 80, the risk of something bad happening during or even after the surgery, becomes much, much higher,” said Dr. Santanu Biswas, imaging cardiologist at the Swedish Heart and Vascular Institute.

Left untreated, around 57% of patients with leaky heart valves may not survive one year. That’s why Carter’s cardiologists opted to use a mitral valve clip.

“We’re able to take care of people [in their] 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond,” said Dr. Sameer Gafoor, medical director and structural heart disease specialist at the Swedish Heart and Vascular Institute.

During surgery, Carter’s doctors used an echocardiogram to locate the leaky valve and determine the best place to secure the clip.

“The clip is inserted through a small incision in the groin,” Biswas said. “We snake this device up through the femoral vein then up to the heart.”

“And by doing this, most patients are able to go home [on the] same day, and they start feeling so much better,” Gafoor said.

“The mitral clip really revolutionized how we treat this condition,” Biswas said.

“There is just a light-year difference,” Carter said. “I feel great.”

Leaky valve is a condition that affects one in 10 Americans over the age of 75. Swedish is leading the way in treating it. The hospital’s cardiology department recently completed its landmark 500th mitral clip procedure.

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