Mitral valve regurgitation is sometimes called mitral insufficiency or mitral incompetence. Whatever term your doctor uses, it's describing a mitral valve that leaks, allowing blood to flow backward in your heart.
The flaps of the mitral valve can start malfunctioning after infection or injury, or over time due to aging or other heart problems. Symptoms can vary widely depending upon the severity of the leakage. Some people diagnosed with mitral valve regurgitation may be surprised by the findings, suffering only mild symptoms such as fatigue or shortness of breath on exertion. In more advanced cases, the disordered blood flow can cause difficulty breathing – especially at night – with fluid in the lungs and swelling in the legs. In all cases, ongoing mitral valve regurgitation damages the heart, so managing symptoms is not a long-term solution.
There's no medication to correct a leaky mitral valve. Open heart surgery allows access to the valves to replace or repair them but for an elderly or frail patient, the risk and rigors of open surgery are often out of the question.
Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Burlington County now offers a transcatheter mitral valve repair called the MitraClip, the only US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved device for the procedure. Through a small incision in the groin, the catheter holding the MitraClip is advanced through a vein to the heart where it "clips" onto the gapping valves. Recovery time is days instead of weeks, with an immediate improvement of symptoms.
It's a welcome option for a group of patients who only a few years ago, had none.
KYW's Rasa Kaye talks about mitral valve regurgitation and the MitraClip with Dr. Vincent Varghese, Attending Cardiac Interventionalist and Director of the Interventional Cardiology Fellowship Program at Deborah Heart & Lung Center.
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