New Treatment Could Help Heart Valve Leaks


3D Illustration of tricuspid valve in heart | Image by sciencepics/Shutterstock

New research has yielded promising results for those with achy, breaky, and above all, leaky hearts.

Abbott, a medical device tech company, funded a clinical trial in which patients suffering from seriously leaking tricuspid valves in their hearts were fitted with a device meant to make the valve smaller and better able to function.

The results were published in The New England Journal of Medicine and were presented at the yearly meeting of the American College of Cardiology, per The New York Times.

Normally, those suffering from this condition have a poor quality of life.

“Imagine a beach ball filled with fluid in your stomach all the time,” Dr. Joseph Cleveland, Jr., a cardiothoracic surgeon at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, told the NYT.

Situated on the right side of the heart, the tricuspid valve facilitates the flow of deoxygenated blood between the right atrium and the right ventricle. However, when the valve malfunctions, blood flows backward, accumulating fluid in vital organs and swelling in the legs and feet. Even patients’ eyes can become swollen. In severe cases, this condition can result in heart failure.

According to Dr. Gregg Stone, an interventional cardiologist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, there are over one million people living with this condition in the United States. It predominantly affects older individuals and is a serious concern due to its potentially life-threatening consequences.

Up to recently, the only permanent solution available to those with leaking tricuspid valves was a very risky repair through open-heart surgery.

Drugs known as loop diuretics, which flush excess fluid from the body, are able to relieve some of the fluid retention felt by those with leaky tricuspid valves. But the results provided by this treatment are temporary.

In the clinical trial run by Abbott, 350 patients afflicted with severe valve leakage were randomly assigned to either the clip implant or medical therapy using a loop diuretic. The trial participants had an average age of 78 and they were observed for one year.

After a month of receiving the clip implant, 87% of patients saw a mild or moderate reduction in their symptoms, compared to only 4.8% of the group that received loop diuretics.

Patients who underwent the clipping treatment reported a significantly improved quality of life.

According to the NYT, Adelaide Effertz, an 86-year-old patient who resides on a farm in Minnesota, was among the first to receive the treatment. She reported feeling better immediately and is no longer forced to nap each afternoon.

Dr. Kendra Grubb, a heart surgeon and director of the structural heart center at Emory University, who was not involved in the study, has described the new treatment as a significant breakthrough, per the NYT. She further commented that although medical therapy has enabled doctors to keep patients alive, “it’s a miserable way to live.”

Now, patients with seriously leaking tricuspid valves in their hearts may finally have a safe and effective treatment option.

The clipping treatment was deemed safe by those running the clinical trial, with a reported mortality risk of less than 1% in very sick patients and an average hospital stay of one day.

It is not yet known how much the clip implant will cost or when it will become available after regulatory approval.

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