A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Innovative heart procedure makes life-changing difference

Bob Gwidt received MitraClip valve procedure which allows him to continue to do the things he loves

Bob Gwidt, of the Wausau area, underwent the MitraClip valve procedure, which allows him to continue doing activities he loves.

Bob Gwidt was out of breath after walking a few steps and often needed help getting around, cramping his daily routine of visiting auto repair shops in the Wausau area to collect scrap metal.

Over the years, Gwidt has collected more than 3 million pounds of metal he’s recycled, netting him more than $124,000 – all of it donated to local charities and service organizations.

“I’m an active person, but I tire easily, and people at the garages I visited had to help me out,” Gwidt said. “I needed more help from my wife and family. I didn’t ‘have the ethyl in the old gas tank,’ as they say. I was miserable.”

Gwidt was suffering from mitral valve regurgitation, which occurs when mitral valve leaflets don’t close tightly, causing blood to leak backward from the heart’s left ventricle into the left atrium. The heart then works harder to push blood through the body, which can cause fatigue, shortness of breath and worsening heart failure.

The MitraClip procedure

Gwidt underwent the MitraClip valve procedure and was home a few days later. Today he’s back at garages, collecting metal and helping charitable organizations like Children’s Miracle Network and Peyton’s Promise.

The MitraClip valve procedure doesn’t require opening a patient’s chest and temporarily stopping the heart. Instead, the procedure accesses the mitral valve with a catheter that is guided through a vein in the leg to reach the heart. The MitraClip is a small metal clip covered with a polyester fabric implanted on the mitral valve via the catheter.

Bob Gwidt received MitraClip valve procedure which allows him to continue to do the things he loves

Bob Gwidt collects scrap metal to recycle and raise money for charities and local service organizations.

MitraClip treats mitral regurgitation by clipping together a small area of the leaflets of the mitral valve. The valve continues to open and close on either side of the clip, allowing blood to flow on both sides of the clip while reducing the flow of blood in the wrong direction.

“The doctors did a great job,” Gwidt said. “I felt improvement immediately; that was the best thing. I like to get out and meet lots of great people. That keeps me healthy mentally and physically, and that’s important as you get older.”

A first in the region

Marshfield Clinic cardiologists are the first in central Wisconsin to offer the minimally-invasive MitraClip valve procedure. Open heart surgery remains the gold standard to treat mitral valve regurgitation. However, for many patients, their health makes surgery too risky.

“We are delighted to offer this service to our patients, who previously had no viable option for treatment, right here in the community they live in,” said Dr. Dan Gavrila, chair of cardiology at Marshfield Clinic. “It makes a substantial difference in their sense of well-being and reduces the chance of future hospitalizations.”

Compared to long hospital stays after open-heart surgery, the two- to four-day hospital stay after the MitraClip procedure is much more manageable. Research by Abbott Vascular International, maker of MitraClip, has shown a reduced hospitalization rate for future heart failure.

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