Four-Millimeter Device Fixes Leaking Heart Valve

Unity Point
Cedar Rapids resident Joyce Callahan underwent a MitraClip heart procedure, a catheter-based repair of her mitral valve. UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's is the only hospital in the area that can perform the procedure. (Photo used with permission from Linn-Mar Community School District).

Sponsored - In early 2022, Joyce Callahan was admitted to St. Luke’s Hospital. The 83-year-old Cedar Rapids woman was experiencing weakness, shortness of breath and started retaining fluid.

“I contacted my doctor because my legs were swollen,” Callahan described. “I think they drained 12 or 13 pounds of fluid from my body.”

“During her hospital stay, we did an echocardiogram, and it became clear the problem was due to her mitral valve, which was leaking,” said Keith Kopec, MD, St. Luke’s cardiologist.

The mitral valve connects the upper left chamber of the heart to the lower left chamber. It contains two leaflets (flaps) that open and close to regulate blood flow. When the leaflets don’t completely close, blood can leak into the lungs or reduce the pumping function of the heart.

“Her heart was unable to keep up with her body’s needs,” said Wassef Karrowni, MD, St. Luke’s structural and interventional cardiologist. “As a result, she was experiencing heart failure.”

Multidisciplinary Team of Experts

As is the case with all patients who need St. Luke’s advanced heart procedures, the Heart and Vascular team assembled a group of specialists, including Callahan’s primary cardiologist Dr. Kopec, Dr. Karrowni and other structural and interventional cardiologists, a cardiologist who specializes in echocardiograms, a heart surgeon and valve coordinators. Together they determined the best approach was the MitraClip procedure.

As the name implies, the MitraClip is a tiny, four-millimeter-wide clip that attaches to the leaflets of the mitral valve, helping them close more completely. It is delivered to the heart via catheter through a vein in the groin. Patients typically go home the day after the procedure. St. Luke’s Heart and Vascular team introduced MitraClip to Cedar Rapids in 2021 and is the only hospital in the city able to perform the procedure.

“This situation is the most common indication for using the MitraClip,” explained Dr. Karrowni. “It was designed for patients who are not candidates for open-heart surgery, so this was her only option.”

Katie Maybanks, ACNP, St. Luke’s structural heart nurse practitioner, helps patients prepare for procedures like MitraClip. She discusses the details of what’s happening with their heart and describes what the treatment involves.

“We help patients understand and feel comfortable and confident in their decision,” shared Maybanks. “In Joyce’s case, the MitraClip was a lifesaver. In earlier years, this would have been very traumatic. She would have needed open-heart surgery and required a longer recovery period. But MitraClip is less invasive.”

No Pain, Home the Next Day

Callahan was thrilled with the result and had a successful recovery. She said, “You would think with any kind of heart procedure you would have some kind of discomfort, but I didn’t have any pain.”

The day following her procedure, Callahan was discharged from the hospital, and she participated in Cardiac Rehab. She continues to attend an exercise program and says she is feeling great. Although she formally retired from her job several years ago, she likes to keep busy and continues to work part-time several days a week in food service for Linn-Mar Community School District.

“Joyce worked hard to feel better. Clearly the MitraClip put her over the top,” Dr. Kopec said. “Fortunately, St. Luke’s was able to offer her this life-saving, minimally invasive procedure.”

St. Luke’s is Cedar Rapids’ Heart Hospital. Two out of three heart patients in the area choose St. Luke’s for our advanced treatment options. Learn more about St. Luke’s Heart & Vascular Care, or call St. Luke’s Heart Care Clinic at (319) 364-7101 to connect with a cardiologist.

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