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What is a heart valve repair?

Heart Valve Repair

A heart valve repair is a surgery to fix a diseased or damaged heart valve. Heart valves keep blood flowing in one direction through the four chambers of your heart. They have tissue flaps that open to allow blood to flow forward to the body. The flaps then close tightly so blood does not leak backwards into the heart. 

Diseased or damaged heart valves allow a backflow of blood or do not allow blood to flow forward normally. Heart valve repair is preferred over heart valve replacement because it preserves the strength and function of your heart muscle. 

Heart valve repair is a major surgery with significant risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all your treatment choices before having a heart valve repair. 

Types of heart valve repair

The types of heart valve repair procedures include:

  • Balloon valvuloplasty is a catheter procedure that opens a stenosed (narrowed) heart valve. Your doctor inserts the catheter through a vessel in your groin or arm and threads it to your heart valve. Your doctor inflates a balloon in the tip of the catheter to widen or open your heart valve.
  • Commissurotomy opens or separates valve flaps that are fused together. This widens the valve opening.
  • Decalcification removes calcium deposits on heart valves, which causes stiffness of valves.  It improves the flexibility of the tissue flaps and allows the heart valve to work better.
  • Patched leaflets fixes holes or tears in the heart valve flaps, or leaflets. Your doctor will repair the damage with a tissue patch.
  • Ring annuloplasty repairs the ring-like base of your heart valve with metal, tissue, or a special cloth material. This helps tighten a valve that is too loose or too wide.
  • Triangular resection repairs a floppy mitral valve flap (leaflet) that does not close properly. Your doctor will remove a section of the floppy leaflet and sew the remaining parts back together. This allows the valve to close more tightly.

Other surgical procedures that may be performed

Your doctor may perform other procedures in addition to heart valve repair.  These include:

  • Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG, heart bypass surgery) uses a graft to make a new route for blood to flow around blocked coronary arteries in the heart. Grafts are made with healthy vessels taken from other places in the body.
  • Percutaneous coronary intervention (angioplasty) involves widening or opening blocked or narrowed coronary arteries in the heart. A stent is typically placed in the artery to keep it open longer.
Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 12, 2013

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Medical References

Heart Valve Disease. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/hvd/hvd_whatis.html. Accessed May 5, 2013.
Heart Valves Explained. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/PreventionTreatmentofHeartAttack/Heart-Valves-Explained_UCM_305656_Article.jsp. Accessed May 5, 2013.
Pile, JC. Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2006;73 (Suppl 1):S62. http://ccjm.org/content/73/Suppl_1/S62.full.pdf. Accessed May 5, 2013.
Umakanthan R, Leacche M, Petracek MR, Zhao DX, Byrne JG. Combined PCI and minimally invasive heart valve surgery for high-risk patients.Curr Treat Options Cardiovasc Med. 2009 Dec;11(6):492-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19930987. Accessed May 5, 2013.
Valve Surgery. Cleveland Clinic. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/disorders/valve/valvetreatment.aspx. Accessed May 5, 2013.

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