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Overview: About Mitral 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.

Learn more about the Heart Valve Program >

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 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.

Patient Resources

Mass General is dedicated to ensuring that people understand their health care choices and have the necessary information to make decisions affecting their health and well being. The related support and wellness information listed below can play a role in treatment options.

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Patient Guide to Cardiac Surgery

Patient Guide to Cardiac Surgery

Learn what to expect before, during and after your surgery at the Mass General.

Frequently Asked Questions
FAQs: Cardiac Anesthesia

FAQs: Cardiac Anesthesia

A guide of what to expect before, during and after cardiac anesthesia.

Patient Education
Family Guide to Cardiac Surgery

Family Guide to Cardiac Surgery

Support and guidance during a family member's open-heart surgery or transplantation.