Lourdes offers a surgery alternative for heart patients

Burlington County Times
September 19, 2017
Danielle Desisto, Staff Writer

CAMDEN - For months, Alan Clark couldn't walk more than 15 feet without feeling out of breath.

Simple tasks like taking the trash to the curb or shopping for groceries exhausted him. He spent most of his time at home watching television.

"I had no quality of life. I couldn't do anything," he said.

Clark, of West Deptford, Gloucester County, was diagnosed with severe degenerative mitral regurgitation, or MR. The flaps of his heart's mitral valve did not close completely, causing blood to leak toward his lungs.

He was identified as too high risk for valve replacement surgery, but doctors at Lourdes Health System came up with a solution: a new procedure called MitraClip.

Clark was one of the first patients to undergo MitraClip sur­gery, a transcatheter mitral valve repair surgery for patients who cannot have open heart surgery. A catheter is inserted through a small incision in the upper leg, and the metal MitraClip is guided through the catheter to reach the mitral valve and close the flaps shut. 

"It's essentially a clip, like a clothing clip," said Dr. Atiq Rehman, Director of Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery and Co­-Director for Structural Heart Disease at Lourdes.

The dime-size clip will stay in the patient's body for life, Rehman said. It debuted in 2003 and is manufactured by Abbott, a global health care and research company.

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital is the only hospital in South Jer­sey to offer the procedure, officials said. The health system also oper­ates Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County in Willingboro.

Patients who are identified as high risk, like Clark, don't have many options outside traditional open heart surgery. Only a frac­tion of MR patients are eligible for surgery because of age or other illnesses. Before MitraClip was an option, patients would be pre­scribed medication to ease symp­toms, but it would not correct the condition, Rehman said. 

Clark had heart problems and struggled with his weight.

"If they're high risk for sur­gery, they're more likely to have a longer hospital stay and have high risk of complications," said Dr. Ibrahim Moussa, Interventional Cardiologist at Lourdes.

Clark found himself stuck in a cycle. He needed to lose weight, but he couldn't exercise because of his MR. Now that he's breathing easier, he's become more active.

He said he almost instantly felt better after his MitraClip surgery and went home from the hospital the next day.

"We were able to break that cycle and get him back on his feet much quicker," Moussa said.

One other patient besides Clark has received a MitraClip so far, and two other procedures are sched­uled this month.

Clark hasn't fully healed yet, but he is grateful he's regained his life back.

"It made a world of difference," he said.