Allegheny General Hospital Receives Recognition as Mitral Valve Repair Reference Center from the American Heart Association and the Mitral Foundation

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Local Elementary School Principal of Ohio Township Benefits from this Lifesaving Procedure

Pittsburgh-based Allegheny General Hospital receives recognition for excellence of mitral valve disease program

“I’m just so thankful for Dr. McGregor and the entire team at Allegheny General Hospital. They have truly given me my life back and now I get way more than eight years with my family and that feeling is something I can’t even put into words."

Jeff Carter of Ohio Township, Pa., was mowing the lawn over the summer when he just couldn’t catch his breath or find the energy he needed for the task at-hand. After years of keeping up with his two children as dad and his hundreds of students at Coraopolis’ Cornell Elementary as principal, he figured his age had finally caught up with him. Fortunately, out of an abundance of caution, Carter made an appointment with his physician who would swiftly refer him to Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) and its leading cardiovascular team after a concerning heart murmur was detected.

“I have known of my heart murmur for almost my entire life but never thought it truly impacted my health or my ability to do the things I love,” explained Carter. “But now, as I look back, I can easily say that I have always been the one overly exerted compared to everyone else. When running drills for high school football or basketball, I would be worn out after just one lap around the track or up and down the court when the other runners didn’t even seem that winded.”

Under the clinical direction of Walter McGregor, MD, lead surgeon of the AHN mitral valve program and director of cardiac surgery at the AHN Cardiovascular Institute, Carter underwent an echocardiogram and was diagnosed with mitral valve disease.

“Not all heart murmurs are related to mitral valve disease but in many cases this can be the first sign,” said Dr. McGregor. “There are varying forms of valve disease and in Jeff’s case, we not only saw mitral valve regurgitation but also a congenital heart condition that prevented blood flow between the lungs and heart. From there, we scheduled open-heart surgery to reconstruct Jeff’s mitral valve and restore proper blood flow between his lungs and heart.”

And, Carter was at the right place. For the second consecutive time, Dr. McGregor and his clinical team have received the Mitral Valve Repair Reference Center Award from the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Mitral Foundation for a demonstrated record of superior clinical outcomes resulting from evidence-based, guideline-directed degenerative mitral valve repair. The announcement marks a significant milestone for the AHN Cardiovascular Institute as it places the Network’s mitral valve repair program among the most elite nationwide; to date, only 21 facilities have earned this award across the country and AGH remains the only hospital in the state to receive this recognition.

The mitral valve is located in the left side of the heart and works to keep blood flowing properly in one direction from the left atrium to the left ventricle. When the valve doesn’t work correctly, allowing blood to flow backward, it results in the heart not pumping enough oxygenated blood for the body. Symptoms, including fatigue and shortness of breath, are often present and persistent, and they may mimic issues more commonly associated with lung conditions.

The recommended treatment for degenerative mitral valve disease is mitral valve reconstruction because it provides excellent long-term outcomes. Unfortunately, too many patients still undergo valve replacement surgery because they are unaware of these benefits.

“Our mitral valve disease program closely evaluates every patient to determine if valve reconstruction is right for them, like in Jeff’s case, or if one of our other advanced techniques makes sense,” Dr. McGregor explained. “It’s our patient-centered approach and the exceptional caliber of our cardiac specialists that enable us to achieve such high success rates that are recognized by organizations like the American Heart Association and the Mitral Foundation.”

Currently, an estimated 4 million people nationwide have significant mitral valve insufficiency, with an annual incidence of 250,000 suffering from mitral regurgitation (MR), according to the latest data from the American College of Cardiology. In a 2020 report from cardiologists at the University of Alabama (doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2020.08.039), the rate of mortality caused by mitral valve regurgitation among adults has increased since 2012 after showing initial declines for the last 15 years.

“There were some physicians who told me that if we hadn’t caught this problem when we did, I wouldn’t have been here eight years from now,” said Carter. “I’m just so thankful for Dr. McGregor and the entire team at Allegheny General Hospital. They have truly given me my life back and now I get way more than eight years with my family and that feeling is something I can’t even put into words.”

For a full listing of recognized facilities with the Mitral Valve Repair Reference Center award, go to http://www.mitralfoundation.org/reference-center-award/find-a-center.

To learn more about the AHN Cardiovascular Institute, visit ahn.org.

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About the Allegheny Health Network:
Allegheny Health Network (AHN.org) is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving the greater Western Pennsylvania region. The Network is composed of 14 hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, Health + Wellness Pavilions, multiple employed physician organizations, home and community based health services, a research institute, and a group purchasing organization. The Network provides patients with access to a complete spectrum of advanced medical services, including nationally recognized programs for primary and emergency care, trauma care, cardiovascular disease, organ transplantation, cancer care, orthopedic surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, women’s health, diabetes, autoimmune disease and more. AHN employs approximately 22,000 people, has more than 2,600 physicians on its medical staff and serves as a clinical campus for Drexel University College of Medicine and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.

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