Elizabeth Taylor Keeps On Ticking

Oct 12, 2009 | Stacy Matson | Celebrity Health
Elizabeth Taylor Keeps On Ticking

image by: Roland Godefroy

MitraClip belongs to a new category of minimally invasive procedures that use catheters to replace and repair heart valves. No more cracking the chest, especially for pretty women. Although commonly used in Europe it is still in clinical trials in the United States

Last week, Elizabeth Taylor- AIDS activist, perfume magnate, Oscar winner and Hollywood royalty - announced she would be undergoing experimental heart surgery to repair a leaky valve. Ms. Taylor has a long history of medical problems which includes more than 30 surgeries that date back to an injury she received while filming National Velvet in 1944.

The actress also suffers from frequent bouts of pneumonia. One incident, while filming Cleopatra, was so severe that she had an emergency tracheotomy. In recent years, Taylor was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, became wheelchair bound due to chronic back problems, had surgery to remove a benign brain tumor, and battled alcohol and drug addiction. Wow!

Elizabeth Taylor

Taylor, 77, who is apparently quite tech savvy, announced the planned surgery on her Twitter page, "Dear Friends, I would like to let you know before it gets in the papers that I am going into the hospital to have a procedure on my heart. It's very new and involves repairing my leaky valve using a clip device, without open heart surgery, so that my heart will function better. Any prayers you happen to have lying around I would dearly appreciate. I'll let you know when it's all over. Love you, Elizabeth”.

Ms. Taylor suffers from what is called Mitral valve prolapse (leaky valve) which means her heart's mitral valve is not closing tightly and allows blood to flow backwards into her heart. Mitral valve prolapse is the most common type of heart valve disease and affects more than four million people in the United States.

The groundbreaking procedure Taylor underwent is called MitraClip. According to Dr. Edward Verrier, professor of cardiovascular surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle, "It's an unproven but new technology that's being introduced as a potential [and less-invasive] alternative to open-heart surgery". 

The procedure is designed to repair the leaky valve without any physical trauma to the sternum and without the use of a heart-lung bypass machine. The final result is improved blood flow to the heart and relief from symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath that often affects patients with leaky valves. Additionally, because of the lack of trauma, patients generally recover very quickly.

MitraClip technology is commonly used in Europe but, unfortunately, is not currently approved by the FDA in the United States. However, the device is in stage II clinical trials and preliminary data show patients have improved heart function and relief from heart failure symptoms and if data continues to be positive it will likely be presented to the FDA for final approval in the spring of 2010.

After her surgery, Ms. Taylor was true to her word and tweeted about her recovery, “Dear Friends, My heart procedure went off perfectly. It's like having a brand new ticker. Thank you for your prayers and good wishes.  I know they all helped. Love you, Elizabeth.”

Stacy Matson is a health enthusiast from Southern California and regularly blogs on Celebrity Health for A Healthier World, as well as contributing to the Best of the Best.

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