Heart valve surgery

Sometimes your doctor may recommend heart valve surgery to treat a damaged heart valve. Valves can be:

  • Stretched
  • Repaired
  • Replaced

Balloon valve surgery

A narrowed valve can sometimes be stretched. This is most often performed for treating mitral valve stenosis and is called mitral valvuloplasty.

During this procedure a small tube (called a catheter) is inserted into a major artery (usually in your groin) and then guided up to your heart. A wire, with a tiny inflatable balloon, is passed through the catheter and when it reaches the damaged valve the balloon is inflated to stretch the valve.

The balloon is then deflated and the catheter and balloon are removed. This type of surgery does not involve open heart surgery and can be as effective as replacement surgery.

Valve repair

If at all possible surgeons will try to repair a damaged valve as it is a less invasive procedure than valve replacement surgery. Valve repair surgery is most commonly performed for treating mitral valve regurgitation.

Valve replacement surgery

If the valve cannot be repaired then it may be replaced. Replacement valves can be either artificial mechanical valves made of metal and plastic or natural tissue valves from pigs (porcine).

Not everyone will be suitable for this type of surgery so it is important to discuss all the advantages and disadvantages with your doctor. Complications of valve replacement surgery include:

  • Bleeding following surgery
  • Blood clots: usually you will be given a blood thinning drug (e.g. warfarin or aspirin) to help to prevent this
  • Endocarditis: the new valve can become infected or inflamed. You will be given antibiotics to help to prevent this
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