Living again, thanks to new valve repair option

Many people will say that as you get older, you need to accept the limitations that come with age. At age 87, Betty Vaughn did not want to accept that her new symptoms of shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and fatigue were a normal part of getting older. Even though she was told her to live with it, she wanted to maintain her independence, so she visited Minneapolis Heart Institute®. After meeting with Paul Sorajja, MD, an interventional cardiologist, she found out she had mitral valve regurgitation, a common valve disorder.

Learn why Vaughn was a good candidate for MitraClip®, a unique transcatheter mitral valve repair and how having this less invasive treatment helped her maintain independence and quality of life.

It's hard to find bridge players, but we have an interesting group of girls. 

How are you feeling? 

We play on New Years Eve here. And I wasn't going to do it this year, because I felt so rotten. 

I think I'll pass. 

When you get a certain age, you're supposed to take what comes and be happy and thankful. I wasn't as thankful until I realized how lucky I am. 

You've got to take turns. I like you. 

I had no symptoms until I was about 87. I started having this huh. When I was going up and down the stairs, I couldn't breathe. Then I got lightheaded, and I got terribly, terribly tired. Years ago, my doctor said, live with it. Ah, it was not living. It was existing. 

I like the fact I'm independent, and I ask very little of my kids. If I can do it myself or get it done, I do. I really thought it was going to go away, until I was laying on the steps, and I knew that that wasn't going to go away, that something had to be done. 


There are some patients who simply want a chance at feeling better. And Miss [? Vaughn ?] was one of those. She had persistent symptoms, and the symptoms just were not getting better. She had a problem with her mitral valve that could not be treated with medicines. 

We found out what was wrong, that this valve is not working properly, and that-- 

These two leaflets are meant to come together, like a pair of doors. When they close, they're supposed to touch. This mitral valve is allowing blood to move backwards. 

But you've got to face facts. I am old. I don't think my body would take surgery well at all. 

What I told her was that open surgery was not recommended for her, because of her age and the risk of the surgery. And it was very apparent to us that she was somebody who we should treat with the MitraClip therapy. A patient needs to be seen by a surgeon and a cardiologist together. 

There's a large population of these patients that are not good surgical candidates. So a lot of that age plays a role into it. And so that increases our risk exponentially. One way to remove that risk is through a therapy like MitraClip. 


Our goal is to go in there and use that clip to help put those two leaflets together. Are you ready to get this done? OK. 

And he said, don't worry. You're in good hands. It's a good crew. 

So here's our room. Everyone has concerns about an elderly person having the procedure. But the procedure itself is so well-tolerated. It doesn't require going on bypass. The procedure is performed using access through a small vein in the patient's leg. 

I think we're ready to go in and [INAUDIBLE]. 

This leaky valve causes pressure to build up. And that high blood pressure in this chamber then leads to heart failure. So this is the MitraClip. The clip is inserted into a patient fully closed. We then cross into the heart and use the clip arms in the grippers to then ground the mitral valve leaflets. We close the arms together, and then that's how we create the MitraClip implantation. It then turns a valve that has a leaky problem into a valve that now the leaflets come together. When we're done, that tube is removed, and it's close with either one or two stitches. 

Congratulations, everyone. That was fantastic. 

The leaky mitral valve has completely been treated with placement of this clip. And we're not causing any symptoms of heart failure. 




It worked. 

It worked. Those pressures in your heart were life-threatening. 

I'm a tough old lady. He was standing there smiling from ear to ear, and I knew it had gone really well. Just generally feeling better, and it feels lighter there, like something was lifted off my chest. 


She had the procedure done within about an hour. Within an hour and a half or so, she already had the breathing tube taken out and was already awoken, and was starting to recover at that point. 

I'll see you in the morning, OK? 

Overall, she was actually home about 48 hours after she came in for the procedure. 

He had said I would feel better, and I did. That's the difference. I'm living now. I'm doing anything and everything I want, going where I want. I do do things differently now. I am doing yard work where I wasn't doing any. If I hadn't had the procedure, then I'd a ended up in a nursing home. 

See how many times I go up and down the stairs? 

Oh my, she's just showing off. 

I'm just glad I'm still in my own home, and I'm driving at night. So it can be done. I'm a very lucky young lady, or an old lady, as you want to put it. And I feel very special. I really do. 


Related resources

mitral valve patient story
Dr. Paul Sorajja explaining mitral valve repair surgery to Betty.