Mitral Valve Surgery
What is mitral valve surgery?
Mitral valve surgery is done to fix a severely malformed or diseased valve. This disease can be caused by mitral stenosis or mitral regurgitation/insufficiency. Your valve will be either repaired or replaced with a biologic (tissue) or a mechanical (metal) valve. Mitral valve surgery is usually performed as traditional open-heart surgery.
You will work with your heart surgeon to decide which valve is right for you.
- Tissue Valves: These valves are typically made from pig or cow tissue. In some cases, a donated human valve is used. The valves are pre-treated so they do not require you to take anti-rejection medications. Tissue valves tend to wear out faster in younger, more active people. This is due to the increased blood flow demands on the valve. They typically last around 10 years before needing to be replaced. You will then need a second open heart surgery.
- Mechanical Valves: Mechanical valves are man-made metal valves designed to last your lifetime. They do not wear out. There is an increased risk of blood clots with this type of valve. To prevent this, lifelong anticoagulation therapy with medications such as Warfarin are required.
What happens during the mitral valve surgery?
Mitral valve surgery is an open heart operation done under general anesthesia. You are asleep during the surgery and have a breathing tube to breathe for you. During surgery, your blood is circulated by a machine (cardiopulmonary bypass or "bypass") that takes over the work of your heart. It allows your heart to be stopped while the surgeon is doing the operation.
An incision is made through your breastbone which is then spread open to expose your heart. Small incisions are made in the heart to access your valve. Once the valve is exposed, the surgeon examines your valve carefully to see if a repair is possible.
If a repair can be done, the surgeon removes the diseased portion of the valve and reconstructs it using the surrounding natural tissue. A supporting ring may be inserted to help the valve keep its shape. The specific technique used depends on the type of valve disorder you have.
If a valve replacement is needed, the surgeon will remove the diseased valve and replace it with a new, properly functioning valve.
After your new valve is in place or the repair is complete, it is tested to make sure it is functioning properly. Your body temperature is returned to normal and you are weaned off the bypass machine as your heart pumps on its own again. Your breastbone is closed with special wires to keep it stable during the healing process. The tissue and skin incisions are then closed. Once your surgery is done, you are brought up to the Cardiac Surgery Unit at the hospital to recover. Your breathing tube is removed as soon as you are able to breathe on your own again.