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Health, Science & Tech

Allegheny General, UPMC Presbyterian Hospitals Offer MitraClip Heart Surgery

Allegheny General Hospital and UPMC Presbyterian Hospital are the first in the region to offer a minimally invasive heart surgery that allows physicians to operate as the heart beats.

The MitraClip is designed to treat degenerative mitral regurgitation (MR), a heart condition where blood flows backwards through the mitral valve, forcing the heart to pump even harder to get the blooding moving in the right direction. MR causes fatigue, shortness of breath and heart failure.

About 4 million Americans have some sort of mitral valve insufficiency, according to Allegheny General Hospital.

“The door opens not just in a one-way direction, but in a two-way direction,” said Dr. Walter McGregor, Director of Robotic and Minimally Invasive Heart Surgery. “So blood can flow not only forward, but in a backward direction and when blood flows in a backward direction it ends up congesting the lungs and everything that comes before that door.”

While other surgeries require chest incisions and the stoppage of the heart, the MitraClip procedure only requires a small amount of anesthesia and a catheter. During the surgery, a metal clip is inserted into the heart via a catheter in the femoral vein. The clip holds the two mitral valve leaflets together, allowing blood to move forward, but not backward.

McGregor said recovery time for the surgery is about one week with a two to three day hospital stay.

“It’s a very different type of surgery with only requiring a needle stick in the groin to deploy the device and the heart is allowed to continue to beat just like normal,” he said.

The MitraClip, produced by Abbot Vascular, costs between $25,000 and $35,000, according to a report by The Advisory Board Company.

McGregor said the clip is only designed for those too sick to undergo traditional heart surgeries.

“We don’t really know the long-term results of the MitraClip as compared to other forms of surgery,” he said. “And therefore, the MitraClip procedure is really, at this point and time, kept for patients who are very risky candidates for other forms of heart surgery.”