Are You One of the 4 Million People at Risk for Leaky Heart Valves?

(BPT) – Did you know nearly one in 10 people aged 75 or older[i] suffers from a leaky mitral valve, or mitral regurgitation? And most don’t know it, attributing symptoms of fatigue or shortness of breath to just old age.

In 2009, Kato Pomer was an active 92-year-old woman, still practicing child psychiatry, painting, gardening, and playing with her grandchildren. In August of that year, with little warning, she was rushed to the hospital after experiencing shortness of breath and labored breathing. Kato’s doctors diagnosed her with severe leaky mitral valve, and she needed immediate treatment to live.

Mitral regurgitation is a debilitating, progressive and life-threatening condition impacting 4 million people, like Kato, in the U.S. alone.[ii],[iii],[iv] When mitral regurgitation occurs, the mitral valve (one of the four valves of the heart) does not close completely, causing blood to leak backward into the heart. Due to this backward flow, the heart is not able to efficiently circulate blood through the body, which can cause fatigue, shortness of breath and difficulty performing daily activities.

The consequences of leaving a leaky heart valve untreated can be substantial – people often develop other conditions such as irregular heartbeats, stroke, heart failure and even death.[v],[vi],[vii]

Open-heart surgery has been the standard treatment to repair a leaky mitral valve, and first emerged as a treatment option in the early 1960s. Yet only about 20 percent of patients are candidates for open-heart surgery because of a high risk for potential complications due to other illnesses or advanced age. Medications only help to manage the symptoms without treating the underlying problem.

Kato sought opinions from several doctors, but she was not a candidate for open-heart surgery to correct the problem, and she and her family were told to consider hospice care.

Not willing to give up, Kato enrolled in a clinical trial at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute for Abbott’s MitraClip® device. Ten weeks after being rushed to the hospital, Kato underwent the MitraClip procedure.

Now a clinically proven, minimally invasive option, MitraClip has treated over 50,000 patients worldwide, and allows doctors to make a small incision in the leg to travel through the body’s network of blood vessels to reach and repair a leaky mitral valve. The goal of treatment is to improve heart function while minimizing symptoms and avoiding future complications.

‘Kato’s heart was working much harder to pump blood through her body,’ said Saibal Kar, MD, director of Cardiovascular Intervention Center Research at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. ‘MitraClip has added years to Kato’s life and offers hope for patients with leaky valves around the world.’

Now, eight years later, Kato is 100 years young and lives with her daughter in the Los Angeles area, where she loves to spend time with her children and grandchildren, and enjoys her garden and going out for sushi.

Approved by the U.S. FDA in 2013, the device had its own milestone this year when the 50,000th patient was treated for mitral regurgitation.

Patients who have undergone a MitraClip procedure report feeling better almost immediately, have a newfound energy and can often return to activities they enjoy within a few days.

‘I was rapidly fading before getting my MitraClip and we thought the end was near. Now, I’m still living a full life at one hundred years old,’ said Pomer.

Once implanted in the heart, MitraClip mimics the stitches that a surgeon would make to the flaps of the valve during open-heart surgery. The result is the heart’s ability to pump blood more efficiently, thereby relieving symptoms, improving the patient’s quality of life and allowing them to get back to doing the activities they love – faster.

For more information on MitraClip®, visit

For important safety information on MitraClip®, visit

This article is sponsored by Abbott.

[i] US National Library of Medicine. Medical Encyclopedia: Mitral Valve Regurgitation. National Institutes of Health, 2015.

[ii] US Census Bureau. Statistical Abstract of the US: 2006, Table 12.

[iii] Nkomo et al. Burden of Valvular Heart Diseases: A Population-based Study, Lancet, 2006; 368: 1005-11.

[iv] Patel et al. Mitral Regurgitation in Patients with Advanced Systolic Heart Failure, J of Cardiac Failure, 2004.

[v] Mitral Valve Disease. 2016. Accessed September 7, 2017 at:

[vi] Patient Info. Mitral Regurgitation. 2017. Accessed September 7, 2017 at:

[vii] National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. What is Heart Valve Disease? 2015. Accessed September 7, 2017 at:

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* Interwoven stories of people in India and US as they face dilemmas of life time in the months leading to the biggest Industrial disaster in human history that claimed 10,000 innocent lives within a few hours. Inspired by real events.

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