Options for Heart Valve Repair

Heart valve repair surgery may be the best option for addressing a malfunctioning heart valve flap that is disrupting blood flow.

The heart has four valves—the mitral valve, the tricuspid valve, the pulmonary valve and the aortic valve—which keep blood flowing in the proper direction. Each valve has flaps that open and close with every heartbeat. Structural heart disease occurs when one or more flaps do not function properly, disrupting the flow of blood through the heart and to the rest of the body. While often hereditary, cardiac valve defects can also be caused by wear and tear on the heart or result from other medical conditions, such as coronary artery disease.

Types of Heart Valve Defects

Heart valve surgery can repair two basic types of defects:

  • Stenosis – Narrowing of a heart valve
  • Regurgitation – Leaking of a heart valve that allows blood to back up

If the condition is relatively mild or does not cause symptoms, treatment may begin conservatively with medications and healthy lifestyle changes.

How Is a Defective Heart Valve Surgically Repaired?

If a surgical repair is appropriate, the optimal approach can be determined based on several factors, including the condition of the affected heart valve and the patient’s age and overall health.

The options for heart valve repair include:

  • MitraClip® placement – A surgeon places a specialized clip to help the mitral valve close more tightly.
  • Atrial septal defect (ASD) closure – A surgeon closes a hole that developed in the wall separating the two upper chambers of the heart
  • Ventricular septal defect (VSD) closure – A surgeon closes a large VSD, which is a hole that developed in the wall separating the two lower chambers of the heart
  • Patent foramen ovale (PFO) closure – A surgeon closes the foramen ovale, a natural hole in the wall between the two upper chambers of the heart that normally closes at birth.
  • Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) – A surgeon inserts a replacement valve without removing the damaged valve.

What to Expect After a Heart Value Repair

After heart valve surgery, the patient typically spends the first few days of recovery in the intensive care unit (ICU), then moves to a progressive care unit for several more days. The treatment team will monitor the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate, watch for signs of infection and suggest pain management strategies. When leaving the hospital, the patient will be given detailed instructions on incision care, medication use and physical activity. Many patients recover fully within four to eight weeks.

The team of heart and vascular specialists at Tampa General Hospital utilizes the most advanced techniques to repair heart valves that are not functioning correctly. In addition to traditional heart valve surgery options, we perform complex procedures to treat high-risk patients.