At 73 years of age, Veronica Singh had a lot of living left to do. She wanted to enjoy daily walks and work in her garden. But a heart condition known as tricuspid valve regurgitation was holding her back.
Veronica was short of breath and unable to sleep. She couldn’t walk around her condo without gripping the walls for support. And until recently, open-heart surgery was the only way to repair tricuspid valve regurgitation. This major surgery was risky for Veronica, who was experiencing heart failure. It would also require a long recovery.
But an innovative clinical trial and the dedicated doctors at Inova Heart and Vascular Institute (IHVI) changed Veronica’s life. Wayne Batchelor, MD, MHS, Director of Interventional Cardiology and Interventional Cardiology Research for IHVI, and Abbas Emaminia, MD worked together to treat Veronica’s condition with a minimally invasive procedure. Now, she feels amazing — and is getting stronger each day.
What Is Tricuspid Valve Regurgitation?
Tricuspid valve regurgitation is a heart condition that affects millions of Americans. It occurs when the tricuspid valve in the heart is “leaky,” allowing some blood to escape. Normally, this valve closes and allows blood to flow from the right atrium down to the right ventricle. But when the tricuspid valve leaks, it allows blood to pool in the right atrium, forcing the heart to work harder.
Some people with tricuspid valve regurgitation have mild symptoms. But others, like Veronica, experience severe symptoms and heart failure. Open heart surgery can repair the leaky valve but it carries risks for older adults or those with other health conditions. Traditional tricuspid valve repair is a major operation that requires cutting through the sternum (chest bone). Usually, doctors also stop the patient’s heart and use a heart-lung machine known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Recovery can take several weeks or months, even for a healthy person.
Minimally Invasive Repair for Tricuspid Valve Regurgitation
When Veronica first met with Dr. Emaminia, she expected a discussion about open-heart surgery. But instead, Dr. Emaminia told her about the Triluminate Pivotal trial, a study that offers a minimally invasive treatment that could repair the tricuspid valve.
“Dr. Emaminia told me the Triluminate trial could be an alternative to open heart surgery,” Veronica said. “I was ready to jump in immediately. Dr. Emaminia and Dr. Batchelor started the process to get me enrolled in the trial. They were so compassionate and supportive. It was a wonderful day when they told me I was going to get the Triluminate procedure.”
With the Triluminate procedure, doctors close the tricuspid valve with special clips. They use advanced imaging to maneuver the clips through an artery in the groin and into the heart. The imaging eliminates the need for open surgery and patients usually go home after one or two days.
The results of the study will determine whether the Triluminate procedure is an effective alternative to open-heart surgery. “The Triluminate trial could be a major breakthrough in treating tricuspid valve regurgitation,” says Dr. Batchelor. “IHVI is the only center in northern Virginia with access to this new technology. Veronica is one of many patients who have had success with this procedure.”
A Successful Procedure
The day of her repair, Veronica met with Dr. Batchelor and the IHVI team that would care for her. They prepped her for the tricuspid valve procedure. Then, instead of going into an operating room, Veronica and her team went to the cardiac catheterization lab.
“As they wheeled me into the cath lab, there was a group of researchers, doctors and nurses cheering me on,” Veronica recalled. “It was fantastic. Everyone at Inova was rooting for me the whole way.”
Finding Relief at Last
Veronica stayed one night in the hospital and went home the next day. But the most remarkable difference she noticed came before she even left her hospital bed.
“I woke up from the procedure and realized I had slept,” Veronica said. “For months, I hadn’t slept more than five minutes at a time. Right then, I knew the procedure had worked. It was an amazing feeling of peace.”
The Inova Difference
One of the things Veronica loved most about her experience at Inova was the warm, compassionate care she received. “Everyone — my doctors, nurses and aides — made me feel like I wasn’t just another patient,” she said. “They really cared about me and my health. My team wanted me to have the best possible outcome, and it showed in everything they did.”
To learn more about the Triluminate Pivotal trial, contact the Inova Structural Heart/Valve Disease Program.