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MitraClip Helping Patients With Heart Problems

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A special clip that looks like a miniature clothespin is helping turn lives around.

This is a treatment for people who have a heart valve problem that causes fatigue and difficulty breathing.

For severe cases, instead of surgery, now patients can get help with a little clip.

Alan Clark is once again able to walk without losing his breath, thanks to a device smaller than a dime.

"I had no life," he said.

The 65-year-old man, who lives in West Deptford, has a history of heart disease -- most recently, a heart valve problem called mitral valve regurgitation.

"It shows you the valve is leaking severely," Dr. Atiq Rehman of the Lourdes Medical Center explained. "The blood, instead of going forward, is going backward."

The doctor says the traditional treatment is open heart surgery, but that's not an option for many patients who have a mitral valve leak because it would be too risky.

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"Up until now, there was not any hope," Dr. Rehman said. "They could not achieve a quality of life. Now it's different."

That difference can come with a MitraClip, which is inserted into the heart valve through the groin similar to a cardiac catheterization.

It's designed to bring the two flaps of the valve together more closely so that they no longer leak blood.

"I pretty much do anything I want now," Clark said.

Clark, who had been in congestive heart failure, says his energy is back and he's getting ready to get back on his motorcycle, now with his life back after getting the MitraClip.

"It's definitely worth it," Clark said. "I've been through heart surgeries, I've been through other surgeries, and this is a walk in the park."

Clark says he felt better almost immediately after spending one night in the hospital.

There are a variety of risks linked to the MitraClip, but doctors say most patients who are elderly have improved health.

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