Penn Heart and Vascular

A Better Option for this High Risk Mitral Valve Patient

"I have no regrets. This mitral valve procedure was the best thing I could have done for myself. Go to Penn. Make an appointment. If you are a candidate, do it!"

Elaine Kramer, 90, Mitraclip patient

Elaine Kramer was at a point in life where standing up was difficult because of the deep breaths it required. Just walking to the bathroom was a challenge. She was sick and tired of being sick and tired, but there was no end in sight to the misery.

After living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for many years, the 90-year-old great-grandmother was painfully accustomed to her shortness of breath. But, despite medicine and oxygen treatments, she was only getting worse. After a follow-up with her pulmonologist, Elaine determined it was time to seek other advice. Her doctor referred her to Penn Heart and Vascular, where the collaboration of different specialists gave her answers and options.

Cardiologists at Penn soon found that Elaine had severe, degenerative mitral regurgitation and was in immediate need of treatment. Mitral regurgitation, sometimes called leaky mitral valve, is a common heart valve disorder where the mitral valve leaflets do not close properly, causing blood to leak backwards. The heart works inefficiently, causing shortness of breath and fatigue for those afflicted. Suffering from a severe form of the disease, Elaine couldn't catch her breath, even after walking short distances.

Typically, patients diagnosed with severe mitral regurgitation have two options: prescription medications to relieve the symptoms -- but that don't fix the problem -- or surgery, the latter of which may require the use of a heart-lung machine.

Elaine Kramer now had a third option.

In October, the FDA approved a minimally-invasive procedure to repair the mitral valve using a device called the Evalve MitraClip. This option presents an alternative for patients who suffer from degenerative mitral regurgitation and who are considered too high-risk for open heart surgery.

Elaine was a candidate.

Elaine went to see cardiac surgeon Dr. Clark Hargrove at Penn Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Hargrove gained a clearer picture of Elaine's heart and determined she was at a high risk for complications if she had open heart surgery. He recommended that she see Penn interventional cardiologist, Dr. Howard Herrmann, a MitraClip pioneer. After evaluating Elaine, it was clear to Dr. Herrmann that she was a prime candidate for the MitraClip procedure.

One February morning, with her children by her side and great-grandchildren in her thoughts, Elaine underwent the MitraClip procedure. Working side-by-side with Dr. Frank Silvestry – an expert in cardiac imaging – Dr. Herrmann successfully treated Elaine's mitral valve. The next day, Elaine walked out of the hospital grateful that she had avoided open heart surgery.

So what is Elaine most excited for when she looks ahead in her life? Watching her seven great-grandchildren grow while still maintaining her independence.

The MitraClip procedure has a long, positive history at Penn Medicine.

Years ago, and in many parts of the country, the MitraClip procedure would not have been an option for Elaine and others like her. Now, as the only facility in the area performing this minimally-invasive alternative to open heart surgery, Penn Medicine gives hope to high risk mitral valve disease patients.

Dr. Herrmann performed the second MitraClip procedure in the U.S. over 10 years ago when clinical trials first started and has been performing it ever since with his team at Penn Medicine.

If you have been diagnosed with mitral regurgitation or suspect you may have a heart valve problem, seek out the care of Penn Medicine. When patients come to Penn, they have access to a collaborative cardiac team of physicians and surgeons looking out for their best treatment. Penn cardiologists are leaders in their field and can point patients to the newest, cutting-edge technology that can't be found anywhere else in the area.

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