At first glance it looks like the world’s smallest clothes peg…
But heart experts at The James Cook University Hospital are using a new device called MitraClip to deliver an advanced, minimally invasive treatment for severe heart valve disease.
The tiny clip can repair a leaking heart valve without the need for invasive surgery as specially trained doctors implant the device using a thin tube (catheter) which is guided to the heart through a vein in the leg.
The MitraClip is attached to the mitral valve to help it close without leaking which helps restore normal blood flow through the heart.
Because the procedure does not require opening the chest or temporarily stopping the heart it provides a life changing treatment option for patients who have been deemed too high risk for surgery.
This includes patients who are too old and frail or people with heart failure who were previously reliant on tablets or cardiac devices to control symptoms such as dizziness, breathlessness and irregular heartbeats.
One of the first patients to benefit from the service at James Cook was 89-year-old John Woods.
John was so unwell and breathless that it was touch and go as to whether he would be able to have the MitraClip inserted, but the tiny life saving device was successfully implanted and he has never looked back.
“I’m giving them 11 out of ten!” said John, who lives near Whitley Bay but was referred to the Middlesbrough hospital for the specialist care.
The service at James Cook is delivered by interventional cardiologists Paul Williams and Seth Vijayan alongside imaging cardiologist Richard Graham and cardiac surgeon Enoch Akowuah.
It is a procedure that requires precision and team work as Richard puts a probe down the gullet (foodpipe) to provide an ultrasound image of the heart while Paul and Seth use the images and their interventional skills to insert the clip.
Paul said: “This leading edge procedure completes our extensive mitral valve programme at James Cook. We are proud to now offer all mitral valve treatments from our Middlesbrough heart unit.
“Previously patients would have had to travel as far as Manchester, Bristol or London for this procedure so it is fantastic to be able to bring this service to Teesside.
“We have now performed 15 cases, treating patients from a wide catchment area including North Tyneside, Gateshead, York and Carlisle, and have had excellent results to date.”