MUM-OF-TWO OLASUMBO IS FIRST IN THE UK TO UNDERGO NEW HEART OPERATION
BY TOBY PORTER
A mother-of-two who could have been killed slowly by the effects of a heart attack has been saved by the first operation of its kind in the UK. Olasumbo Yates, from Blackheath, would have been expected to have highly dangerous open heart surgery after the attack.
It damaged a valve which regulated her blood flow – causing it to leak. Blood would have flowed backwards through the valve, preventing her heart from functioning properly.
The condition can cause breathlessness, fatigue, dizziness, chest pain and, if left untreated, can eventually lead to heart failure and death.
She only began to suffer the effects last year, even though the heart attack had happened six years ago. The pharmacist could barely cope with working two-days-a-week.
A procedure which repairs leaking heart valves without the need for invasive surgery was carried out at St Thomas’ Hospital, in a UK first. She is now back working three-days-a-week, thanks to the procedure.
The pioneering technique uses equipment known as an Arto device to pull a stitch across a leaking valve and then tightens it to stop the leak. A T-bar was fed through veins from one hole in her leg and a metal pad through one in her leg and the two were brought together to close the valve using magnets and a thread.
She still has the device inside her heart.
Olasumbo, 55, said: “Last year I suddenly started to get breathless and very tired. I could barely function and struggled to get through working two days a week. No matter how much rest I got I needed more.”
She was told about the Arto procedure and had it after a series of tests. She said: “The difference was immediate. When I woke up, I felt lighter and I was eager to get out of bed. I could walk at my usual slow pace without feeling tired, which was a big improvement.
“Now I’m able to work three days a week and, provided I pace myself, I have a lot more energy. The procedure has given me a whole new lease of life and I’m so grateful I had it.”
Pioneering heart op is lifesaver for mother
Professor Simon Redwood, consultant cardiologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, performed the new technique for the first time in the UK as part of the international MAVERIC (MitrAl ValvE RepaIr Clinical) trial.
With the patient under a general anaesthetic, an ultrasound scan of the heart is undertaken by inserting a camera through the mouth into the oesophagus (gullet), which shows how much blood is leaking from the mitral valve.
Two catheters are inserted through veins in the neck and leg and are fed through the body until they reach the mitral valve.
Magnets are used to create a small hole through the wall of the upper left chamber of the heart, at one end of the mitral valve. A tiny metal T-bar is then positioned in the hole and a stitch is released across the width of the valve.
Two discs on a spring are released from the other catheter, which sit at the other end of the mitral valve.
The stitch is pulled across the valve through the discs and is tightened until the ultrasound shows that the leaking has stopped.
The stitch is locked and cut, and the device remains inside the heart.
About one in 50 adults in Britain is thought to have mitral “regurgitation”, when the mitral valve – which controls blood flow through the upper and lower left chambers of the heart – fails to close properly. As a result, blood flows backwards through the valve, compromising the function of the heart.
Professor Redwood said: “It is too early to say if the Arto procedure is better than other treatments for mitral regurgitation but it is very safe and easy to do.
“Patients are usually able to go home within a couple of days of having the procedure and they can feel the benefits straightaway. Everyone’s anatomy is different so not all treatments are suitable for patients, which is why it is beneficial to have more options to offer them.”