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Bill Kubacki: Mitral Regurgitation Patient Story

HVI patient Bill Kubacki | Mitral Valve Leak PatientThe Challenge: Mitral Valve Leak

Bill Kubacki and his wife, Lee, enjoy an active life. At 86, Bill walks daily and stays busy with projects around their home and yard.

In 2016, Bill had an echocardiogram (echo) — a test that uses sound waves to make pictures of the heart. The results showed that Bill had a leaking mitral valve, a condition known as mitral regurgitation.

The mitral valve has two flaps — called leaflets — that open and close to allow for healthy blood flow. Mitral regurgitation happens when the valve’s flaps don’t close properly, letting blood leak backward instead of flowing forward through the heart.

Because Bill only had mild fatigue from his condition, his doctor prescribed medicines and regular echocardiograms to keep an eye on it.

But when Bill felt extremely fatigued and short of breath one morning this spring, he went straight to his primary care doctor. And then to the local hospital.

There, Bill had a more advanced imaging test called a transesophageal echocardiogram. Also called a TEE, this test can make more detailed pictures of the heart and heart valves than a standard echo test.

During the test, the doctor attaches a device (a transducer) to a thin tube and passes it down into the esophagus. The device creates the sound waves to make the pictures of the heart valves.

The test showed severe leakage from Bill’s mitral valve, which explained his symptoms.

The Path to UPMC for Mitral Regurgitation Treatment

Doctors referred Bill to A.J. Conrad Smith, MD, an interventional cardiologist at the UPMC Center for Mitral Valve Disease.

Both Bill and Lee felt comfortable with Dr. Smith right away.

“Dr. Smith was so humble,” said Lee. “He talked about his team, and how they all work together to care for their patients.”

The Solution: The MitraClip®

Because Bill wasn't a good candidate for open-heart surgery, Dr. Smith suggested a minimally invasive procedure using the MitraClip device.

The MitraClip is a small device that safely clips the mitral valve flaps together to help restore proper function and blood flow.

Bill had a MitraClip procedure with Dr. Smith and his team in April of 2017.

“Thank God for Dr. Smith,” said Lee, who remains grateful for the care her husband received. “These days, Bill couldn’t feel any better and we’re back to our normal life.”

Bill's treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.

Learn more about mitral valve regurgitation

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute:

UPMC HealthBeat:


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