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Mitral Valve Repair Surgery

Surgery Overview

Mitral valve repair is typically done during an open-heart surgery. It repairs a mitral valve that is not working as it should.

The mitral valve opens and closes to keep blood flowing in the proper direction through your heart. If the mitral valve doesn't close properly, it's called mitral valve regurgitation. If the valve is very tight and narrow, it's called mitral valve stenosis. In both of these cases, blood doesn't flow through the heart the right way.

You will be asleep during the surgery. In an open-chest surgery, your doctor will make a cut in the skin over your breastbone (sternum). This cut is called an incision. Then the doctor will cut through your sternum to reach your heart. In a less invasive surgery, your doctor will make smaller cuts in your chest. Your sternum is not cut.

The doctor may connect you to a heart-lung bypass machine. It adds oxygen to your blood and moves the blood through your body. This machine will allow the doctor to stop your heartbeat while working on your heart. After repairing the valve, the doctor will restart your heartbeat.

How the repair is done depends on how the mitral valve is damaged. Your doctor can tell you how your mitral valve will be repaired.

If your sternum was cut, the doctor may use wire to put your sternum back together. Your incision will be closed with stitches or staples. The wire will stay in your chest. The incision will leave a scar that will fade with time.

You may stay in the hospital for a few days after surgery.

What To Expect

You will feel tired and sore for the first few weeks after surgery. You may have some brief, sharp pains on either side of your chest. Your chest, shoulders, and upper back may ache. The incision in your chest may be sore or swollen. These symptoms usually get better after 4 to 6 weeks.

You will probably be able to do many of your usual activities after 4 to 6 weeks. But for at least 6 weeks, you will not be able to lift heavy objects or do activities that strain your chest or upper arm muscles. At first you may notice that you get tired easily and need to rest often. It may take 1 to 2 months to get your energy back.

Even though the surgery repaired your mitral valve, it is still important to eat a heart-healthy diet, get regular exercise, stay at a healthy weight, take your medicine, and not smoke. Your doctor may suggest that you attend a cardiac rehab program. In cardiac rehab, a team of health professionals provides education and support to help you recover and prevent problems with your heart. Ask your doctor if rehab is right for you.

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Why It Is Done

Mitral valve repair surgery is done to treat mitral valve stenosis or regurgitation. You might decide to have this surgery if the valve problem is bad enough that you have symptoms or if it can or has damaged your heart.

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How Well It Works

Surgery can help blood flow more normally through a narrowed mitral valve or stop blood leaking backwards through the valve. Depending on the valve problem and how severe it is, surgery may help relieve symptoms, improve quality of life, and prevent damage to the heart.footnote 1

Risks

The risks of mitral valve repair surgery vary depending on a few things. These things include whether the surgery is an open-heart surgery and whether a heart-lung bypass machine is used. Another factor is your health before surgery. For example, younger, healthy people have a lower risk of problems while older people with other health problems have a higher risk.

The risks during or soon after surgery include:

  • Infection.
  • Kidney problems.
  • A heart rhythm problem called atrial fibrillation.
  • Heart attack.
  • Stroke.
  • Death.

References

Citations

  1. Otto CM, et al. (2020). 2020 ACC/AHA guideline for the management of patients with valvular heart disease. Circulation, published online December 17, 2020. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000923. Accessed December 17, 2020.

Credits

Current as of: December 2, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Rakesh K. Pai MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
John A. McPherson MD, FACC, FSCAI - Cardiology