The Heart of the Clip

I had mentioned in a previous post that I had a relatively minor procedure scheduled for early 2024 to deal with a heart murmur.

That procedure was last week and I’m back home – dealing with the after effects of the surgery.

First, a brief review of anatomy.  The left side of the heart has two chambers: an atrium, which takes blood from the lungs and pushes it into the ventricle; and the ventricle that pushes blood out into the body. Between the two is the mitral valve that opens and closes as the heart beats.

The mitral valve is huge.  The size of every person’s is different, but it averages between 0.6 and 0.9 square inches (think of it roughly in US coinage as between a nickel and a quarter).

Mine was leaking due to heart enlargement brought on by the heart attack.  The problem with leaking is that  when the ventricle contracts some blood flows back into the atrium. This turbulent flow is what’s called a heart murmur.

The procedure to correct it was to place two MitraClips from Abbott Labs on the valve to reduce that backflow, increasing the amount of blood that gets out into the body – something in my case important as my left ventricle is weaker than normal.

It was done under general anesthesia and involved a small incision in the groin through which a catheter was passed through one of the main veins into the heart. Once there, micro surgical techniques with imaging technologies was used to place the Mitraclips – I got two. It’s relatively quick. For me it was about two hours from when I was wheeled into the procedure room to waking up back in post op.

They kept me for a day and a half for observation, including a couple of echo-cardiograms to make sure the clips were solidly placed.  They were. As the surgeons said in response to my question – I was free to return to ultra marathons and my pro wrestling career.  That meant everything else I could do I was free to do.

That is, once I get over the surgical recovery. My esophagus is still a bit tender from the internal ultrasound device they used during the procedure (it’s called a transesophageal echocardiogram for anyone interested); I spent a few days coughing from the oxygen tube inserted through the nose; and I have an incision and some swelling in the groin. Other than that, I feel fine.

I suppose the biggest challenge is psychological – becoming comfortable with harder exercise again with a couple of clips in the heart. That will take time.

All in all, it’s just another reminder of what the father of one of my friends told him years ago: growing old isn’t for sissies.


Author: Tom

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