This Tiny Device May Change the Face of Heart Repair

A new study has found that a small clip used to repair damaged valves reduced death rates significantly.

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Learn About the MitraClip (0:26)

For a long time, options were limited for patients with severe heart conditions experiencing the vicious cycle of mitral valve leaks. That may not be the case for much longer. In a new study, a device called the MitraClip was used to successfully repair the mitral valve by clipping its two flaps together. Six hundred and fourteen patients with severe heart failure in the United States and Canada were randomly assigned to receive a MitraClip along with standard medical treatment or to continue with standard care alone. Among those who received only medical treatment, 151 were hospitalized with heart failure in the two years that followed and 61 died. In contrast, just 92 patients who received the device were hospitalized for heart failure during that period and only 28 died. Dr. Mathew Williams, the director of the heart valve program at NYU Langone Health, states to the New York Times, “This is a game changer. This is massive.” Doctors also found that these patients also avoided additional hospitalizations and described a drastically improved quality of life with fewer symptoms.

The Mitraclip allows for doctors to convert a valve that barely functions into one capable of regulating blood flow in and out of the heart. The procedure is much less invasive than open-heart surgery; however, it requires much training, skill, and precision. During the procedure, a cardiologist threads the device to the heart through a blood vessel in the groin. A tiny echocardiogram camera is placed into the patient’s esophagus behind the heart to show where the catheter with the clip is going. Doctors must watch an X-ray screen and an echocardiogram as they guide the clip to the mitral valve. Once the clip reaches the heart, the device binds the two flaps together. The new trial promises to alter prospects for many people with severe heart failure who have previously had relatively few options. “This will change how we treat these patients,” Dr. Williams said. Almost two million Americans have severe heart failure, and for them, even mundane tasks can be extraordinarily difficult because of disrupted blood flow. This new device could help patients overcome huge health hurdles, changing the face of heart disease treatment forever.