Cutting-edge mitral valve treatment

As they age, some people develop a problem with their mitral valve, an essential pathway that connects the two left chambers of the heart. It ensures that enough blood gets pumped out to the body. Sometimes, the mitral valve gets weaker, causing blood to leak backward between the two left chambers (regurgitation). Other patients experience a narrowing of the mitral valve (stenosis).

In either case, the heart must work harder than before, leading to symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, fluid buildup in the legs (edema), fluid buildup in the lungs (pulmonary edema), and heart palpitations. If the valve is severely damaged, you may need valve repair or replacement.

UW Health offers minimally invasive mitral valve surgery that provides excellent outcomes with less impact than traditional open chest surgery. Specific benefits of this option:

  • Your sternum is not opened and no bones need to be transected

  • Smaller incision

  • Less pain, which means less need for opioid pain medication

  • Less time in the hospital

  • Faster healing and shorter recovery

  • Quicker return to normal activities

Repair vs. replacement

Depending on your situation, the surgeon will recommend either repairing your mitral valve or replacing it with a new one. In general, there are more advantages to repairing the mitral valve, such as not having to take blood thinners. Either way, you will be well cared for by UW Health’s minimally invasive mitral valve team, which is led by a highly experienced heart surgeon, Dr. Andreas de Biasi.

A small percentage of patients who need mitral valve treatment for mitral regurgitation cannot undergo traditional, or even minimally invasive, surgery, but can be treated with a non-surgical procedure using the MitraClip device to help the valve close more completely.


Who qualifies?

Not every patient with a mitral valve defect is eligible for minimally invasive mitral valve surgery. Our team will determine whether you qualify. Some patients are better suited for traditional open heart mitral valve surgery.

Several factors determine whether you might be a candidate for the minimally invasive approach, including:

  • Your heart’s condition

  • Your lifestyle, such as whether you smoke or have a body mass index (BMI) over 30

  • Your medical history

  • Whether you need other procedures at the time of the mitral valve surgery

How it works

The basics of minimally invasive surgery

Before coming to the hospital for surgery, you may have tests such as an echocardiogram, which lets us see how blood flows through your heart and allows us a closer look at your heart valves.

You may also have a CT scan and/or a cardiac catheterization that lets us examine the arteries on your heart.

Once the operation begins, the surgeon will:

  • Make an incision, about 1½ to 2 inches long, between your ribs just to the right of your breast bone

  • Insert special minimally invasive surgical instruments and a small surgical camera

  • Perform the repair or replacement of the mitral valve using these instruments

  • Ensure that everything is working properly and close the incision with stitches


You will spend a few days in the hospital recovering from surgery. Once you go home, you will probably feel more tired than normal for a few weeks. Your surgeon will tell you when it is OK to return to work and other activities. You will need to avoid heavy lifting for several weeks.


High success with low risk

Most minimally invasive mitral valve repairs (or replacements) are highly successful. As with any surgical procedure, however, there are risks. Yours will vary based on your overall health, age and other factors.

Possible risks include:

  • Infection

  • Bleeding

  • Irregular heart rhythms, possibly requiring a permanent pacemaker

  • Blood clots leading to stroke or heart attack

  • Complications from anesthesia

  • Damage to the arteries in the legs

  • Inability to complete the procedure as planned, resulting in standard open-chest surgery

  • Stroke

Certain factors increase the risk of complications, such as:

  • Chronic illness

  • Other heart conditions

  • Lung problems

  • Increased age

  • Being obese

  • Being a smoker

  • Infections

  • Vascular disease

Meet our team

A highly experienced expert surgeon

Dr. Andreas de Biasi is a highly experienced cardiothoracic surgeon with expertise in heart valve disorders and minimally invasive mitral valve surgery.


Quality care in Madison

Minimally invasive mitral valve surgery is performed at University Hospital in Madison.