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Univ. of Tokyo Hospital suspends heart disease treatment after patient's death

TOKYO -- A man in his 40s receiving a leading-edge treatment for a heart problem at the University of Tokyo Hospital died last fall, prompting the metropolitan government to conduct an on-site inspection there in December last year and instruct the clinic to suspend the treatment until its safety is confirmed.

According to the hospital in the capital's Bunkyo Ward and others, the method in question is called the "MitraClip" procedure for patients with symptoms like valve disease in which the blood flows backwards in the heart. In the treatment, a device is inserted in the patient's heart using a catheter to improve their cardiac function. Unlike open-heart surgery, this method reduces the physical burden on patients. The method has been covered by insurance since April and is currently conducted at major hospitals across Japan.

The man was the sixth patient to receive the treatment at the university hospital since its introduction there in July last year. He underwent the procedure in September 2018 at the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, and the doctor in charge tried to bore a hole in the heart at the beginning of the procedure but failed to do so and suspended the operation. The patient's condition deteriorated shortly after that and he passed away the next month.

In response to the man's death, the hospital voluntarily suspended the procedure and reported the case as a medical accident to the third-party Japan Medical Safety Research Organization.

The hospital says it "made no errors" in its decision to conduct the treatment. It is planning on an internal investigation with outside experts to look into the cause of the accident. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is seeking the hospital to submit a report on the investigation result.

A University of Tokyo Hospital official told the Mainichi Shimbun that the institution "will consider a future course of action after receiving a strict examination by the investigation committee including external members."

(Japanese original by Go Kumagai, Medical Welfare News Department)

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