Minimally invasive heart valve procedure helps those at high risk for surgery


Beaumont first in area to offer new FDA-approved MitraClip for mitral regurgitation

Steve Shammas has his life back
after having the MitraClip procedure

Steve Shammas of Scottsdale, Arizona was afraid he would never live to see his grandkids.

With a history of heart disease that included a diagnosis of mitral valve regurgitation, a heart attack and open-heart surgery, he was starting to fail. Surgeons in Arizona and Michigan were telling him “we cannot touch you.”

But his wife Karen, a former health care administrator, had connections in Michigan that led him to Beaumont, Royal Oak, where he participated in a research trial of a minimally invasive device for patients with debilitating mitral valve disease called MitraClip.

Now, one year later, the 67-year-old former teacher and grocer in Detroit, has his life back.

“Since the procedure, I can now go to the gym, I have no problem walking and I can sleep better,” says Shammas. His extreme fatigue and shortness of breath are gone.

More patients like him will now be able to benefit from the MitraClip procedure with the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the device on Oct. 25.

“Beaumont was the first hospital in Metro Detroit to treat patients in a 2008 clinical study evaluating the MitraClip system,” says George Hanzel, M.D., director of Valvular and Congenital Heart Disease, Beaumont, Royal Oak. “And now we’re proud to be the first in the area to offer this breakthrough treatment option for patients.”

The MitraClip is approved for patients with severe, degenerative mitral regurgitation who are too high risk for the traditional treatment of mitral valve surgery. It’s a less-invasive, catheter-based procedure. The device is fed to the heart through a thin plastic tube inserted in the femoral vein, a blood vessel in the leg. Once implanted, the device allows the heart to pump blood more efficiently.

Degenerative MR is caused by an anatomic defect of the heart’s mitral valve. It’s a progressive, life-threatening disease. A leaky mitral valve causes a backward flow of blood in the heart.

Mitral regurgitation is common, affecting more than 4 million Americans – nearly one in 10 people aged 75 and older.

Ninety-year-old George Everest of Boyne City was the first patient to receive the MitraClip at Beaumont since its approval by the FDA.

With a diagnosis of mitral regurgitation and a history of congestive heart failure, he was referred to Beaumont by his cardiologist in northern Michigan who trained with Dr. Hanzel.

A lifelong resident of Boyne City, George is looking forward to returning to yard work and lawn mowing – and to clearing all the sidewalks in his neighborhood with his snowblower so the kids can walk to school.

Says his wife of 71 years, Marie: “I’m looking forward to getting him out of the house.”

Dr. Hanzel’s goal was to help George and Marie make it to their 75th wedding anniversary.

It will be quite the celebration. The Everests have two children, six grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren and 11 great great grandchildren – and a town full of others in Boyne City who call them “grandma and grandpa.”

For more information on MitraClip and other structural heart treatments at Beaumont, call 888-683-7678 or go to