First in Iowa to implant third-generation heart device

heart patient in clinic with doctor
Lee Jellison in a follow-up visit with interventional cardiologist Sidakpal Panaich, MBBS.

Using a recently approved update to a device called a MitraClip, surgeons at University of Iowa Heart and Vascular Center repaired the heart of an 82 year old who was a poor candidate for traditional repair of a leaky mitral valve.

Lee Jellison portrait‘I don’t get tired, I don’t run out of breath.’

Lee Jellison of Manchester, Iowa, had a hard time walking across a room. Even sit-down activities, like working his puzzles, would wear him out.

Jellison, 82, had atrial fibrillation—an irregular and often rapid heartbeat—accompanied by mitral regurgitation, a condition in which his heart’s mitral valve didn’t close completely, allowing blood to flow backward into the heart. 

Because of his age and the advanced progression of his illness, Jellison wasn’t a candidate for open-heart surgery to repair the leaky valve.

Jellison’s surgery was on Aug. 23, and he went home the next day.

“I felt wonderful (going home). I still do,” Jellison says. “I don’t get tired, I don’t run out of breath.”

The state’s first

UI Heart and Vascular surgeons are the first in Iowa to use the third-generation MitraClip, repairing the leaking mitral valves in a way that is less invasive, less painful, and results in a shorter hospital stay. Using the MitraClip is less invasive than traditional surgery in that a catheter is inserted through blood vessels in the groin and crosses over the heart to implant the clip. The clip then closes the leaky valve.

Using the device, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in July 2018, UI surgeons had done the procedure on five patients by early October.

More patients may benefit

The MitraClip is used to close the mitral valve, allowing blood to flow more regularly. The upgraded device offers improvements in navigation and positioning capabilities, as well as a second clip size with a longer reach. 

“These improvements allow us to reduce heart failure risks in a greater patient population,” says Sidakpal Panaich, MBBS, a UI Heart and Vascular Center interventional cardiologist. “This gives us the ability to treat a broader group of patients with much better results.”

“For patients who cannot tolerate cardiac surgery due to other medical problems, the new MitraClip device offers an option for a repair that the patient can tolerate,” says Jay K. Bhama, MD, a UI cardiac surgeon.

Panaich says the clip procedure is not an alternative to open-heart surgery but an option for those who aren’t good candidates for the traditional surgery.

“This procedure is for high-risk patients who can’t have open-heart surgery,” he says.

A technical challenge 

Though the clip procedure allows for less pain and a shorter hospital stay, the procedure is technically challenging and should be performed by only experienced operators, Panaich says.

“There are not a lot of places in the country that are able to do this yet,” he says. “It is a very complicated procedure that requires a high level of technical expertise.”

The UI Heart and Vascular Center is home to more than 60 of the nation’s most experienced and highly trained cardiologists and cardiothoracic and vascular surgeons using state-of-the-art technology.