Western Connecticut Health Network Expands Structural Heart Program

Norwalk Hospital
MitraClip Care Team

DANBURY, Connecticut, June 19, 2018 Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN) has expanded its structural heart program to include a new procedure that offers hope to patients who otherwise would not be candidates for heart surgery. MitraClip, a minimally invasive procedure to repair severe mitral valve regurgitation (MR), is now available at Danbury Hospital. MitraClip is a safe alternative for patients who are at high risk for complications related to open-heart mitral valve surgery. Until recently, open-heart mitral valve surgery was the only option to treat severe MR.

MR is caused by a leaky heart valve. It occurs when the mitral valve — which lets blood flow from the upper left chamber of the heart to the lower left chamber — does not close properly, causing blood to flow back into the upper left chamber of the heart. Severe MR can cause shortness of breath and extreme fatigue. Left untreated, MR can lead to congestive heart failure. Patients with severe MR and congestive heart failure have significant limitations on their quality of life and life expectancy.

MitraClip is a catheter-based procedure that is less invasive than traditional open-heart mitral valve surgery. Instead of opening the chest and temporarily stopping the heart, physicians at Danbury Hospital can access the heart through a vein in the patient’s leg. As a result, patients typically recover faster and experience improvements in their symptoms soon after the procedure.

Bernard Trudel of Southbury, Connecticut, said he noticed an immediate improvement after his MitraClip procedure.

Mr. Trudel, an active 93-year-old US Navy World War II Veteran, suddenly became bed-bound from fatigue and was having trouble breathing. What he and his family thought was pneumonia turned out to be MR and congestive heart failure. Mr. Trudel’s heart team, including Mark Warshofsky, MD, Medical Director of Cardiovascular Services for WCHN, Hal Wasserman, MD, Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at Danbury Hospital, and Timothy Lehmann, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, recommended the MitraClip procedure because of Mr. Trudel’s high risk for complications related to traditional mitral valve surgery.

Mr. Trudel said, “Dr. Warshofsky spent time with me and my family. He explained that this was a fixable problem and that I would do well with the procedure. He took the worry away from me. So I said, ‘Let’s do it!’”

On February 7, 2018, Mr. Trudel’s 93rd birthday, Drs. Warshofsky and Wasserman successfully implanted the MitraClip.

“WCHN’s heart team uses the latest minimally-invasive technology to treat complex heart disease and restore normal heart function quickly. The availability of these technologies allows us to treat patients who have not been treatable or were at very high risk for complications in the past. We are excited to grow our program with MitraClip, so we can help patients like Mr. Trudel,” said Dr. Warshofsky. “Mr. Trudel was a perfect patient. He has such a good sense of humor and a positive mindset. I was confident he would do well because of his optimism, and the exceptional quality care our heart team provides at Danbury Hospital.” 

“I was excited to have the new procedure and do my part to advance the treatment for MR. I hope that my participation will help many more people,” said Mr. Trudel, who also noted he has even more energy now than before his MR diagnosis.

Mr. Trudel, a devoted husband for 68 years to his late wife Theresa, a father of three, and grandfather of four, is happy to be home and back to doing what he loves. With Tony Bennett, Barbara Streisand, and Frank Sinatra playing in the background, he spends his days coloring, detailing cars, playing cribbage, and visiting with his family.

About WCHN Structural Heart Program
WCHN established the structural heart program to provide the most advanced technologies to treat patients with vavlular and other forms of heart disease. The program began in 2013 with the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) procedure. Since then, the heart team at Danbury Hospital’s Praxair Regional Heart and Vascular Center has performed more than 200 TAVR procedures. Like MitraClip, TAVR is a minimally-invasive, catheter-based procedure that offers hope for patients who cannot undergo open-heart surgery. Now, the heart team will continue to improve the quality of life of even more patients with MitraClip.

To learn more about WCHN’s Heart and Vascular Care, visit wchn.org/heartcare.

About Bernard Trudel
Bernard Trudel graciously shared his story because he wants others to know that the MitraClip procedure is available at Danbury Hospital. Mr. Trudel was not going to let a leaky heart valve stop him — especially — after he overcame losing his mom to ovarian cancer when he was eight years old, fought in WWII, and survived all of the other “ups and downs” he recounts throughout his life. Mr. Trudel attests his longevity to, “going with the flow, getting along with everyone, and being surrounded by loved ones.” He and his late wife Theresa met when they were 12 and 10 years old, respectively. They were competitive western horseback riders and business owners together. She wrote him letters every day when he was overseas during WWII. They raised two daughters and a son together and even mentored at-risk youth in their neighborhood who went on to lead productive and successful lives. We want to thank Mr. Trudel and his family for having confidence in Danbury Hospital and giving us the opportunity to heal a truly remarkable man.