New procedure offers hope for mitral valve patients at Huntsvill - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

New procedure offers hope for mitral valve patients at Huntsville Hospital

Huntsville Hospital is offering MitraClips for mitral valve patients. (Source: WAFF) Huntsville Hospital is offering MitraClips for mitral valve patients. (Source: WAFF)

Doctors at Huntsville Hospital are giving patients with leaking mitral valves in their hearts a second shot at a healthy life.

"Up until now, the only option to fixing a leaking mitral valve or a mitral valve that wasn't functioning properly was open heart surgery to repair or replace the old valve. That has changed now with the newer technology called MitralClip," said Dr. Mihir Kanitkar, who specializes in interventional cardiology.

That clip will help prevent the backflow of blood back into the heart. Kanitkar said a healthy mitral valve's job is to let blood flow forwards and then close to prevent it from flowing backwards.

This new procedure is less invasive than open heart surgery. Kanitkar said they insert a tiny mechanical device that's attached to a flexibility catheter. It's inserted through a patient's femoral leg vein and carefully guided toward the heart.

"Once we're inside the heart, we can clamp both of these two tissues' leaflets off the mitral valve together in such a way that once that is done, there is an almost instantaneous reduction or elimination of the leak across the mitral valve," Kanitkar said.

As far as scar tissue is concerned, Kanitkar said they we want scar tissue to get the two tissue leaflets to align together better.

However, there is a limit to what they do, and they don't want it to be excessive. Kanitkar said imaging is vital to the procedure.

Kanitkar said a separate cardiologist uses a sonogram called a transesophageal echo probe to constantly look at the heart.

"And they really are our eyes during the procedure," he said.

He said the procedure takes between one and two hours. Patient will be on their feet a few hours later. They will spend one night in the hospital for observation.

Kanitkar said the neat thing about this procedure is that it alleviates the need for open heart surgery in some patients.

"If a patient is healthy or strong enough to undergo traditional open heart surgery, that still appears to be the best option. However, a lot of our patients are frail or too sick to withstand an open heart surgical procedure," he said.

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