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Cardiology: Heart Valve Repair

How are heart valve problems treated?

Your heart has four valves. These valves open to let blood pass through, then close to prevent blood from flowing back in the wrong direction. Heart valves can develop two main problems:

  • Stenosis, or narrowing. This means that a valve does not open wide enough to let sufficient blood pass through.
  • Regurgitation, or leakage. The valve does not close completely, so blood leaks through in the wrong direction.

Mild valve problems can be treated with medication. More severe valve problems often require surgery to enable the valve to work correctly.

How is it done?

There are many different types of valve repair surgery. Three of the most common are valvuloplasty, traditional heart valve surgery and minimally invasive heart valve surgery. In some cases, patients may require valve replacement surgery. 

  • Balloon valvuloplasty is used to treat stenosis, or narrowing, of the heart valve. A catheter is inserted through a large vein in the leg and threaded up to the heart valve. A balloon on the end of the catheter is then inflated to widen the opening of the valve. This allows more blood to flow through the valve.
  • Traditional valve repair is a form of open heart surgery. Your surgeon will have direct access to the valves of your heart in order to make the required repairs. The surgery may involve widening the valve opening, removing calcium deposits, reshaping the valve, patching holes or removing sections of the valve that interfere with its operation.
  • Minimally invasive valve repair, including robotic surgery, uses smaller incisions to repair your heart's valves. Many of the same repairs that are done in traditional valve repair surgery can also be done in a minimally invasive fashion.
  • The benefits of minimally invasive surgery include a smaller scar, less blood loss and a quicker recovery.

Assessing risks

Not everyone is a candidate for minimally invasive valve surgery. Your surgeon will determine if this type of surgery is right for you.Your doctor will discuss the risks of these procedures with you. Some of the risks include the following:

  • Bleeding
  • Heart rhythm problems

Less common complications are:

  • Heart attack, if a blood clot breaks loose soon after surgery
  • Infection of the chest wound
  • Kidney failure
  • Stroke
  • Reaction to the anesthesia

Technology and expertise at Lee Health

Lee Health provides the most advanced valve repair surgeries and treatments using a multidisciplinary approach.

Our surgeons have extensive experience with minimally invasive procedures. We have found that a minimally invasive approach can be effective for most cardiac surgery patients, even with challenging repairs. The surgeons operating at Lee Health routinely use minimally invasive procedures for mitral valve repair.

Lee Health is also a leader in the use of robotic surgery for valve repair. Robotic surgery makes it possible to perform valve surgery through smaller incisions with greater control and accuracy. Lee Health was the first in the region to perform valve surgery with robotic assistance.