Procedures

Valve Repair Surgery

Mitral valve and aortic valve repairs treat obstruction to flow, leakage or a combination of both conditions in one of the four principal heart valves.

Mitral Valve Repair

Massachusetts General Hospital Corrigan Minehan Heart Center physicians are experienced in mitral valve repair and minimally invasive mitral valve repair. Performed to treat one of the most common heart conditions, mitral valve regurgitation (a leaking valve), the procedure involves restoring and surgically reconstructing the mitral valve so that it functions normally. Minimally invasive procedures tend to provide patients with a quicker recovery time, less blood loss and even a cosmetic benefit.

Mitral valve regurgitation occurs when the valve does not close completely during cardiac contraction, causing the blood to flow backward instead of forward. A surgeon removes the diseased area of the valve, and then reconstructs it using area tissues.

There are many advantages to a repaired mitral valve versus the alternative, an artificial valve. One possible advantage is that a repaired valve frees patients from lifelong use of blood-thinning medications. It also preserves the internal architecture of the heart, which seems to keep patients healthier in the long run.

Aortic Valve Repair

Another type of valve repair surgery, aortic valve repair, is a possible option for some patients with valve regurgitation (leaking valve), such as patients with leaking bicuspid valves. Physicians at the Mass General Hospital Corrigan Minehan Heart Center are experts in aortic valve repair surgery, even though this procedure is generally performed less frequently than mitral valve repair.

Bicuspid valve disease is a congenital heart condition that occurs when there are only two cusps in the aortic valve, rather than three. Due to the advances of medicine, many patients with congenital heart conditions, such as bicuspid valve disease, are living longer, healthier lives and are able to visit the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center as adults for procedures such as aortic valve repair.

Two of the advantages of aortic valve repair surgery include decreased risk of infection and decreased need for lifelong use of blood-thinning medications.

Understanding the Valves

With current valve substitutes there is a trade-off between durability and the need for blood-thinning medications. Mechanical valves are the most durable type of valve replacement, but patients need lifelong blood-thinning medications. Natural valves, animal-tissue valves and valve repairs provide greater freedom from lifelong use of blood-thinner medications, but are less durable solutions. Though some patients may be better off with a mechanical valve, tissue valves seem to perform very well, and may be the best option.

Patients need to consult their physicians for a thorough evaluation prior to heart valve surgery. The choice and timing of the appropriate procedure can be a complex decision and must be individualized.

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