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Health Beat: A new life-saving 'clip' for the heart

By Melanie Falcon, Anchor / Reporter, @Melanie_Falcon, MFalcon@wfmz.com
Published On: Jun 24 2014 03:03:48 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 24 2014 04:36:01 PM CDT

When a person's heart valves don’t close tightly enough, blood can leak into the heart and lungs.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

Alice Comer is thankful to show off pictures of her grandchildren. After her second open heart surgery two years ago, her heart valve started leaking, filling her lungs with fluid. The condition is known as mitral regurgitation.

"I was in and out of the hospital about every two weeks, sometimes every week. They would take a very long needle and go in your back and draw the fluid out. It was awful,” Comer said.

But, Comer was too sick for another open heart surgery.

"They said it would kill me," she said.

Instead, Dr. Mark Stankewicz, interventional cardiologist at Saint Thomas Heart, offered her a new treatment known as Mitraclip.

A catheter is guided through the leg vein to the heart valve where the Mitraclip is sent, clipping it together.

"There is no incision. The heart is not stopped. It's beating the whole time," Stankewicz said.

It worked for Comer. No shortness of breath. No other symptoms.

"I don't feel tied down and I do about everything I want to," Comer said.

That includes spending quality time with her daughter.

Unlike traditional surgery, where patients will spend at least a week in the hospital recovering, patients with Mitraclip are generally up the same day and often go home the next day.

Mitral regurgitation affects about four million people in the United States.

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