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Valley Health First In Region to Offer Minimally-Invasive Mitral Valve Repair

Valley Health First In Region to Offer Minimally-Invasive Mitral Valve Repair

In late August, Thomas Garland of LaVale, Maryland was the first Valley Health Winchester Medical Center patient to have his failing mitral valve repaired using a minimally-invasive procedure at WMC’s Advanced Valve & Aortic Center (AVAC). Only 5-10% of hospitals nationwide offer transcatheter mitral valve repair (TMVR) to replace a malfunctioning, leaky mitral valve.

Since 2006, the 74-year-old has experienced a cascade of heart issues. Six years ago he began to rely on a defibrillator implanted in his chest to correct his heart rhythm if needed. When Garland started to feel achy in the chest, short of breath, and more fatigued late last year, tests confirmed that his mitral valve “was shot,” he recalls.

The mitral valve performs an important role with each heartbeat, opening to let blood flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle, and immediately closing to keep blood from “leaking” backward – which leads to congestion in the lungs and heart failure. If the mitral valve loses elasticity or tears, the result is mitral regurgitation (MR), the most common valve disease in the U.S. which affects nearly one in ten people over 75 years of age.

Garland was not a good candidate for mitral valve repair using an open surgical approach. When he read in the Cumberland Times News that Dr. Basel Ramlawi was heading a new team at Winchester Medical Center that would soon offer minimally invasive treatments for valve and aorta conditions, the hopeful Garland mentioned it to his Cumberland heart surgeon. After seeking opinions in Washington, DC, and Baltimore, he and his wife reached out to the closer and more responsive AVAC program in Winchester for a second opinion. Little did he know he would become WMC’s first MitraClip case on August 24.

Unlike open surgery, the MitraClip procedure does not require opening the chest and temporarily stopping the heart. Instead, doctors access the mitral valve with a thin tube, or catheter, which the physician guides through a vein in the thigh to reach the heart. The small MitraClip device is attached to the mitral valve. It allows the valve to close more completely, helping to restore normal blood flow through the heart.

Minimally-invasive repair and replacement techniques result in shorter hospital stays, less pain and a quicker recovery, offering an excellent treatment alternative, especially for higher risk patients.

Garland speaks highly of his experience at WMC and marvels at his short two-day hospital stay, his return to part-time work a week later, and how much stronger he feels nearly four months later. “It seems no matter who I talk to I hear about people with valve problems,” Garland says. “I have all the faith in the world in this procedure and this team. It’s a new adventure for heart patients.”

While AVAC is a new specialty development at WMC, its cardiologists and surgeons are some of the most experienced in minimally invasive treatments for a range of heart conditions.

The Advanced Valve & Aortic Center offers advanced diagnostic imaging for patient evaluations, medical management of heart valve disease and complex problems of the aorta, second opinion services, and coordination with a patient’s primary physician. The center’s leadership includes Basel Ramlawi, MD AVAC Director and cardiothoracic surgeon; Omar Ali, MD, co-director and interventional cardiologist; and Debbie Myers, DNP, program coordinator.

“We are excited to offer comprehensive services to evaluate and treat complex heart valve and aortic problems in a very patient-focused environment,” said Grady W. “Skip” Philips, III, senior vice president of Valley Health System and president of Winchester Medical Center.

Patients and providers interested in knowing more may call the Advanced Valve & Aortic Center at 540-536-4000, or email