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Clip Procedure Corrects Tough Heart Valve Problem


SLUCare cardiac surgeon Dr. Richard Lee and cardiologist Dr. Michael LimPictured: SLUCare cardiac surgeon Dr. Richard Lee and cardiologist Dr. Michael Lim

Patient, Turned Away by Others, Finds Life-Saving Treatment with SLUCare

Edward Ziegelman was in bad shape. His leaky mitral valve, a dual-flap heart valve that controls the flow of blood, was causing shortness of breath, severe fatigue and weakness. After two open-heart surgeries, his condition was too high-risk for any doctor to agree to a third, the conventional method for repairing or replacing a leaky valve. 

I told Dr. Lim I had too much living to do, and that I wasn't about to give up.”

He found help with Dr. Michael Lim and Dr. Richard Lee, SLUCare Physician Group practitioners and co-directors of the Center for Comprehensive Cardiovascular Care at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital. A minimally invasive surgery would be performed to place a mitral clip on the valve, enabling it to function correctly. The center, staffed by SLUCare physicians, is one of the only in the region to offer the procedure. "I told Dr. Lim I had too much living to do, and that I wasn't about to give up," Ziegelman says. He saw results almost immediately. "His functional status was remarkably improved, and he's like a new man," says Lee.

Prior to the mitral clip's federal approval in 2013, patients like Ziegelman would have to suffer with their symptoms. Besides fatigue and weakness, a leaky mitral valve also can cause abnormal heart rhythms, including atrial fibrillation, a leading cause of stroke. "The clip is really an option for people who have no other options," Lee notes.

A leaky mitral valve is a fairly common condition, Lee says, and the Heart Valve Clinic, one of SLUCare's many cardiovascular services, has the expertise and resources to care for patients like Ziegelman, who may be led to believe there's no hope. The clinic also can care for patients like H. Smith McGehee, a 71-year-old with atrial fibrillation, a blood clot and a leaky mitral valve. Because he knew Lee — the two are neighbors — in 2014 McGehee turned to SLUCare, which was able to treat all three disorders. Like Ziegelman, McGehee also noticed a marked improvement in his health. "My heart's been in rhythm ever since, and I feel better than before," he says. "I can go to the gym, play golf and everything's working." 

Man on exercise bikeFor both patients, turning to SLUCare's cardiovascular experts made all the difference, Lee says. "It's critical that you get more than one perspective, and we can offer that," he explains. "At our valve clinic, patients can see a cardiologist and a cardiac surgeon. If patients are healthy enough to undergo surgery, we'll talk about why that's the right option. If a patient is not safe for cardiac surgery, then we can offer them the opportunity to do the clip procedure."

Having the option saved Ziegelman's life. "With the mitral clip surgery, people who may have been turned down for treatment before might not be inoperable anymore," he says. "I told Dr. Lim I didn't think I had more than two or three weeks to live, and he agreed with me. It worked out beautifully, and now I feel 20 years younger."

Learn More Find a Heart Specialist

SLUCare's Heart Valve Clinic is run by cardiovascular physicians Dr. Richard Lee and Dr. Michael Lim. Their team approach reduces the complexity of heart diseases by drawing upon a larger base of medical knowledge, skills and resources. The clinic is located at University Tower, 1034 S. Brentwood Blvd., across from the Galleria. For more information, call 314-977-4440.

This article originally appeared in Town & Style.

By: Stephanie Zeilenga