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YOUR HEALTH | Medical breakthrough changing the way heart surgeries are performed

About 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.

SEATTLE — Over 85 million individuals in the U.S. currently 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. That’s why a team of cardiologists at Swedish Medical Center is leading the way in a minimally-invasive procedure for seniors with a leaky heart valve.

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

“I was out to the golf course this morning, swinging for the first time in four and a half years,” Carter said.

Carter had a leaky heart valve, also known as valve regurgitation. The condition happens when the mitral valve doesn’t close properly, which causes blood to flow backward instead of forward. This pushes blood back to the lungs.  

Swedish Heart and Vascular Imaging Cardiologist Dr. Santanu Biswas explained, “Once you get above 80, the risk of something bad happening during, or even after the surgery, becomes much, much higher.”

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

“We’re able to take care of people, 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond,” Medical Director of Structural Heart Disease at Swedish Heart and Vascular Dr. Sameer Gafoor said.

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

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

Dr. Gafoor further explained, “By doing this, most patients are able to go home [the] same day and they start feeling so much better.”

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

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

A leaky heart 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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