Rare heart valve procedure done for first time in TN - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Rare heart valve procedure done for first time in TN

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A Clarksville woman who thought she'd run out of options after having two open-heart surgeries and still struggled with heart issues received a rare, non-invasive procedure to help repair a valve in her heart.

It's something that had never been done before in Tennessee.

"I knew it was getting worse. I could tell, because I was feeling weaker," said patient Alice Comer.

The 66-year-old has had two open-heart surgeries and wasn't a candidate for a third.

But doctors still needed to fix a valve in her heart that wasn't closing properly and could have caused her to go into advanced heart failure.

So, Dr. Mark Stankewicz, a cardiologist at St. Thomas Hospital, opted to use what's called a "mitra clip."

"The procedure, even though it takes a few hours, is so much easier for patients to go through. It makes a real difference. It's a game-changer," Stankewicz said.

In the procedure, the mitra clip grabs the two parts of the valve leaflets that are open and brings them together, all without open heart surgery.

"There's an old surgical technique, where two leaflets are stitched together. This is basically a copycat of that, but instead of opening the heart and sowing them together, this can be done through a tiny cut in the leg," Stankewicz said.

Comer's recovery was quick. Just hours after her surgery, she was breathing better. And within two days, she was out of the hospital.

"I did great. I feel great. I think I'm going to be alright," Comer said.

The technology used during Comer's surgery has been around for about 10 years. While it's still considered experimental, doctors think it will used more often in years to come.

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