Mitral Valve Repair or Replacement

Board certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, Dr. Marvin Derrick is a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon who currently treats patients at DMH Heart & Lung Institute in Decatur, Illinois. Dr. Marvin Derrick performs a wide array of chest surgeries, including the repair or replacement of an improperly functioning mitral valve.

The mitral valve is located between the left atrium and the left ventricle of the heart. Surgery on this valve is typically needed in one of two scenarios: mitral valve regurgitation or mitral valve stenosis. With regurgitation, the valve is loose, resulting in a backward flow of blood. In mitral valve stenosis, the valve is hardened, preventing it from opening as much as it should and impairing blood flow.

In mild to moderate cases of these conditions, surgery may not be necessary. Many patients function just fine with the use of medications and close observation by a cardiac specialist. In more severe cases, however, surgery is often advised to prevent permanent damage to the heart muscle. Repairing or replacing the mitral valve is an open-heart surgery that is performed under general anesthesia.

If there isn’t too much damage to the valve, the surgeon can repair it with a number of techniques, which can involve trimming, shaping, or reconnecting the valve leaflets so that they open and close properly. The surgeon may also need to repair the annulus, which is the ring of tissue around the valve.

When the mitral valve cannot be repaired, it can be replaced with either a mechanical or tissue valve. Mechanical valves, which are constructed of metal, are durable and long lasting, but they carry the risk of blood clots. Therefore, patients who receive mechanical valves must remain on anticoagulant medication for life. Tissue valves are obtained from a large mammal such as a pig or a human cadaver donor. While tissue valves may carry a lower risk of blood clots, patients who receive them may still need to take blood-thinning medications. These valves typically need to be replaced every 10 years or so.

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