Advantages of Mitral Valve Repair vs. Replacement

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Mitral valve repair is a treatment for mitral regurgitation, the most common type of heart valve disorder. According to the National Institutes of Health, it affects approximately 6 percent of women and 3 percent of men. After age 55, almost 20 percent of men and women have some level of mitral regurgitation.


Traditionally, surgeons have treated mitral valve disorders by replacing the diseased valve with an artificial valve. Artificial valves can be mechanical or can come from an animal donor. However, there are many advantages to repairing, rather than replacing, a diseased mitral valve.


Advantages to Repair

  • Preservation of heart function: By reconstructing the original valve structure, surgeons can better retain the heart's natural shape and function.
  • Freedom from lifelong medications: Patients who undergo mitral valve replacement must take blood thinners for the rest of their lives. Blood thinners can cause problems, and are best avoided if possible. These medications are not required in patients who have their valves repaired.
  • Longer durability: Studies have shown that 15 years after surgery, 82 to 87 percent of repaired valves are still working, compared with 72 82 percent of replacement valves. In addition, replacement valves from animal donors often wear out, and need to be replaced after 10 to 12 years.
  • Better chances for survival at the time of surgery: The national average mortality rate at the time of surgery for mitral valve repair ranges from 1-2 percent, compared with 5-7 percent for replacement. (Data Source: Society for Thoracic Surgeons 2016 Harvest 1 Executive Summary)
The Advantage of Early Surgical Intervention


In addition, recent studies have shown the benefits of early surgical intervention for mitral valve regurgitation. If the mitral valve is repaired before symptoms develop or the heart shows signs of strain, heart function can remain relatively normal over time. This allows patients to live as long as individuals without mitral valve disease. Even for patients who already are in congestive heart failure, mitral valve repair will increase quality of life.


UW Health Results


UW Health is on the forefront of mitral valve repair surgery and the experience of our surgeons drives the success of our mitral valve repair program. As a patient, you will benefit from our technical expertise and volume, which outrank many other hospitals in the nation. Our successful valve repair rate is 87.5 percent in patients referred for mitral valve surgery. This far exceeds the national repair rate of 50 percent. (Data Source: Society for Thoracic Surgeons Fall 2004 Report Executive Summary). Our goal is that, whenever possible our surgeons repair, rather than replace, mitral valves.


Our program's success is demonstrated through our experience and our outstanding results. This level of dedication affords us the opportunity to offer patients with mitral valve disorders the best surgical care, a substantially improved quality of life, and enables us to avoid the use of blood thinners like Coumadin.


Our providers work together at all stages of your care - before surgery, while you are at the hospital, and after you are discharged. Our helpful staff will provide you and your family with answers to any questions you may have.