Region’s fi rst procedure at the Willis-Knighton Heart & Vascular Institute
On a clear, crisp January day, Robert Cutrer of Minden likes nothing more than to crank up his lawn mower and go one-on-one with the leaves that blanket his yard … unless it’s to play nine holes of golf at nearby Pine Hills Country Club.
Two months ago, Cutrer and his family wouldn’t have expected Cutrer to be able to do either again or even to see his 87th birthday.
The 86-year-old woke one night in December with chest pains and was taken to the emergency room, where doctors discovered he had pneumonia. This diagnosis resulted in his hospital admission and the discovery he had a leaking heart valve (mitral valve regurgitation).
Mitral valve regurgitation is the most common form of heart valve disease. The mitral valve’s flaps, or doors, do not close completely, allowing blood to flow back into the heart as it pumps. As a result, the heart must work harder to keep blood flowing and can raise the risk for life-threatening stroke and heart failure. When mitral valve regurgitation becomes severe, it can profoundly affect a person’s quality of life by causing shortness of breath, extreme fatigue and other debilitating symptoms.
Cutrer had experienced all of these symptoms in the months leading up to his emergency room visit and the leaking valve discovery. He was once a very active senior adult, walking his dog daily, volunteering at Lakeview United Methodist Church and maintaining his yard and home. This former drafting instructor had noticed his quality of life was declining.
“I was often dizzy and out of breath,” he says.
Too high-risk for traditional open heart surgery, Cutrer was a candidate for MitraClip, a new treatment option. Previously, choices for treatment have been valve replacement, mitral valve repair, a minimal surgical procedure or a more extensive surgery depending on the severity. Medications have also been used to treat symptoms.
Cutrer was referred to Wenwu Zhang, MD, interventional cardiologist with Willis- Knighton Cardiology. Dr. Zhang performed the region’s first MitraClip procedure at the Willis-Knighton Heart & Vascular Institute with Ryan Master, MD, from Pierremont Cardiology, and Sai Konduru, MD, from Willis-Knighton Cardiology. Willis-Knighton is the third health-care provider in the state to offer this treatment option.
“I was somewhat concerned because I wasn’t familiar with the procedure,” says Donna Moreno, Cutrer’s daughter, who had initially traveled from Tennessee to Minden to spend the holidays with her parents. “Surgery at his age and in his condition was worrisome.”
“But we watched a video about the procedure, which everyone should watch, and I understood what was going to happen and was reassured it was the right thing to do.”
She and the Cutrers were also glad that they had options locally for such an innovative procedure and did not have to travel to New Orleans, Houston or Dallas since travel can be a physical and financial burden for caregivers and other family members.
“We are very grateful for the MitraClip procedure and that it is being done at Willis-Knighton,” Moreno says. “We appreciate everything the doctors and hospital staff did while we were there.”
Today, there is little, if any, evidence Robert Cutrer has recently had major surgery. Seven days after surgery, when doctors said it was OK to drive, he got in the car.
“I don’t even remember where he went,” Moreno says, with a laugh. “I just remember he said, ‘It’s been seven days,’ and doctors said he could drive after seven days so he did.”
Within a week he was walking the dog again. Within two or three weeks he was raking and mulching leaves. Within a month he was playing golf. He’s very determined and independent.