Making Heart Repair a Priority

BIDMC Contributor

SEPTEMBER 08, 2020

BIDMC patient Tom Marchese with the Structural Heart Center Surgery team.
BIDMC patient Tom Marchese one month after his procedure with some of his care team (from left) David Liu, MD, Kim Guibone, NP, and Roger Laham, MD.
BIDMC patient Tom Marchese knew something was wrong last fall. "A year ago, I could bike four to five miles and be very active," he recalled. "But in November, I started to get out of breath and could only go a quarter of a mile before I had to walk the bike home."

Marchese, 71, thought he might be losing his fitness, but then he experienced a concerning irregular heartbeat. He talked to his doctor and had an echocardiogram, an ultrasound scan that shows how the heart's muscles and valves are working. The scan revealed that the mitral valve in his heart wasn't fully closing. This condition causes blood to leak backward instead of flowing forward through the heart. Over time, it can lead to congestive heart failure.

He postponed his follow-up doctor's appointment earlier this spring during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic but moved ahead in June. "I was worried that if I let it go much longer, it may get bad enough that I would need open-heart surgery."

Marchese had read about a minimally invasive option to repair his heart valve using a device called a MitraClip. After his doctor confirmed he was a candidate for this type of repair, he underwent the procedure in July at BIDMC. A team of physicians and surgeons from the Structural Heart Center, including specialists in cardiac surgery, interventional cardiology cardiac anesthesia, and heart failure, implanted a tiny clip to hold together the mitral valve's damaged leaflets, enabling the valve to once again close tightly.

"Our team has extensive experience with this procedure and are pioneering the use of new technology for the treatment of structural heart disease," said Interventional Cardiologist Roger Laham, MD, who noted that BIDMC was the first hospital in New England to use the newest generation of the MitraClip in July.

Marchese, a trained radiology technologist and a clinical engineer himself, was excited to be the first patient at BIDMC to receive the new MitraClip device. "I've seen amazing advances in medicine during my career," he said. Before the procedure fears about COVID-19 were on his mind, but those worries quickly dissipated. "The care at BIDMC was excellent. I could see everything that was done to protect patients."

A month later, Marchese is doing well and plans to bike this winter in Florida, if he can get there. And if he can't, he knows this time it will be the pandemic holding him back, not his heart.

Above content provided by the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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