Advancements in Heart Care Are Good News

Cardiology is evolving, and that ought to provide some relief.

“Every 5 to 10 years, things improve, get safer, get more comfortable for patients,” says Dr. ​​Jeff Freihage, interventional cardiologist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington. “I think that’s important for patients to realize: The arena for cardiovascular patients is becoming quicker and less invasive, and the patient goes home sooner.”

There have been many advancements in minimally invasive heart surgery, and one of the more promising new developments involves the mitral valve, which lies between the two chambers on the left side of the heart: the left atrium and the left ventricle.

The mitral valve prevents blood from going back into the left atrium. When this valve no longer works properly, a person will feel short of breath, says Freihage.

In many instances, surgery is superior to other treatments, he adds, but some patients may be able to use mitral valve therapies not available in the past, such as a device called the MitraClip. It’s proven especially effective with older patients or those with congestive heart failure.

“You put a clip on the valve to tether it together so you don’t have the severe leakiness that you had previously,” Freihage says. “The patients feel better and live longer.”

While new therapies provide welcome news to many, it’s also important to remember the first step toward better health: keep in touch with a primary care physician. Routine screenings can go a long way toward identifying issues with a valve or the effects of heart disease, says Freihage. Your primary care physician will know how to proceed and when it’s appropriate to connect with a specialist.

“These valvular disease issues don’t appear out of the blue. They’ve been there for a while before they become symptomatic,” he says. “It’s much better for a primary care physician to hear a murmur, so when it’s time to do a procedure on a valve they’ve been following you for two years. Ideally, we should be picking up on these when they’re mild or moderate.” ❚

Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital is located at 450 W. Hwy. 22 in Barrington, (847) 381-0123.