Just one week after undergoing a new procedure at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, Douglas Simonton, 76, said he felt like a new person.Simulation footage of how the MitraClip device is implemented and used - Courtesy footage.
Simonton, of Ridge, was previously diagnosed with mitral regurgitation, a condition where the heart’s mitral valve fails to close properly and blood leaks back into the heart’s upper chamber. Symptoms include heart palpitations, cough, shortness of breath and more. Severe cases can lead to heart failure.
In early 2020, Simonton underwent open-heart surgery – a triple bypass aortic valve replacement at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore – in hope that the procedure would cure his extensive fatigue from the diagnosis.
Still, Simonton continued to show signs of exhaustion, facing some difficulty when completing daily tasks. “I was pretty good from the initial surgery, but I wasn’t myself,” he said.
When he brought the concern to the team at South Shore, Simonton said he was placed on medicine in an effort to reduce regurgitation.
After doing additional tests including an echocardiogram, doctors determined that Simonton may be an appropriate candidate for a MitraClip, created by medical device company Abbott Laboratories.
“This is a procedure that we do for patients who have higher risk of surgery,” SSUH Dr. Robert Kalimi said. “The clip is essentially placed on the mitral valve where the leak is to close it off.”
In a traditional open-heart surgery, Dr. Kalimi said, the procedure involves splitting open the breast bone, connecting the patient to the heart-lung machine, draining blood into a heart pump machine during the surgery, opening the heart and repairing the mitral valve.
But the MitraClip procedure is completed percutaneously, he said, which means doctors make a stab wound in the groin and send a wire into the heart and across the chambers of the heart, connecting to the mitral valve.
Simonton, who received the MitraClip procedure in September 2020, called his results “incredible.”
“I felt like I was a new person,” Simonton, a former West Islip School District and Dowling College administrator, said. “Within the first three days, I was doing alright. Then, all of a sudden, I remember telling my wife, ‘I feel like a different person.’”
Over 200 patients have received clips since the procedure came to the Bay Shore hospital in recent years.
Dr. Kalimi, who also serves as the vice chairman of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Southside Hospital and associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, is the principal investigator of a Northwell Health study called “Repair M.R.”
South Shore is the only hospital on Long Island, and one of 27 cardiac programs across the country, that is enrolling patients in the study, which compares the effectiveness of minimally invasive MitraClip to open heart mitral valve surgical repair, in moderate-risk surgical patients.
The national study, if successful, has the potential to expand MitraClips to also include patients at moderate risk. The MitraClip procedure, performed at South Shore, offers local heart patients new options in heart care.
Simonton said he’s grateful for the hospital experts that educated him on the procedure—and that he can live up to his full potential now.
“As a patient, if this is something your doctors are discussing, there’s great potential you have in front of you to take care of a problem,” Simonton said. “It was so successful for me.”