Betty Vaughn considers herself a very lucky lady. At 89 years-old, she still lives independently, gardens, plays bridge regularly with her friends, and visits her children and grandchildren. “Physically, I am active,” she says. Vaughn's current good health is the result of a breakthrough medical device that saved her from a debilitating heart condition.
Three years ago, Vaughn began experiencing symptoms of a common and very serious illness known as mitral regurgitation. This condition, which affects more than four million people in the United States, occurs when the leaflets of the mitral valve, which transfers blood between the heart’s left atrium and left ventricle, do not close completely. The malfunctioning valve allows blood to leak backward into the atrium and lungs, causing increased pressure in the heart and, over time, heart failure.
“Going up and down stairs, I couldn’t breathe and would become lightheaded and terribly tired,” Vaughn says. She quit working in her yard and going for daily walks. Vaughn consulted her cardiologist, who told her to “live with it.”
“But I wasn’t living – I was existing,” she says. “I kept thinking it would go away, until I found myself lying on my steps. Then, I knew something had to be done.”
Until MitraClip first became available in Europe in 2008, open-heart surgery was the only treatment for mitral regurgitation. Unfortunately, nearly 50 percent of those with the condition are not eligible for surgery because they are considered “too frail.” This was the case for Vaughn, whose new cardiologist recommended treatment with Abbott’s MitraClip®. MitraClip is a tiny medical device that treats mitral regurgitation by clipping together the leaflets of the mitral valve, reducing the backward flow of blood and helping the heart work more efficiently. The device is implanted through a catheter inserted into a vein in the leg, without the need to stop the heart or perform open-heart surgery.
A recent study that evaluated data from 564 people who were treated with MitraClip showed that 93 percent of them were successfully treated with the therapy. People included in the study had a median age of 83 years-old and were not candidates for open-heart surgery because they were too sick or had other complicating factors.
In October 2014, Vaughn received a MitraClip during a procedure that took about 60 minutes. Within 48 hours, she was back home, feeling good again.
“If I hadn’t had the MitraClip procedure, I’d probably be in a nursing home,” Betty says. “But now, I’m really living my life. I feel very special. I really do.”
Since MitraClip first became available, doctors have used the device to treat mitral regurgitation in more than 20,000 people worldwide. Learn more about mitral regurgitation and MitraClip – and read about another man’s new lease on life thanks to this procedure.
Learn more about mitral regurgitation here.