The goal of heart valve surgery is to correct the valve disorder, reduce or eliminate symptoms, lengthen life and improve the quality of life.
Repair or Replace?
It's generally best to repair a valve and preserve a person’s own heart tissue when possible. However, when the tissue is too damaged, a replacement valve may be used from another human heart, an animal or a manufactured mechanical valve.
Repair Procedure: Balloon Valvuloplasty
For many people, valve tightness can be relieved during a procedure called balloon valvuloplasty. It's done as part of a cardiac catheterization, which is less invasive than general surgery or open heart surgery.
In a balloon valvuloplasty, a small catheter holding an expandable balloon is threaded into the heart and placed into the tightened valve. Next, the balloon is expanded to stretch open the valve and separate the leaflets.
In some cases the valve cannot be successfully treated by balloon valvuloplasty, and a different surgical treatment is needed to open the valve and allow better blood flow.
Treatment results can vary depending on the experience and training of your medical care teams. Hospitals can become very proficient at managing care around certain conditions. When a valve problem is complex, it is very important to choose an experienced team to do the repair.
How do I find a provider experienced in treating valve disease?
Treatment may require you to visit a highly specialized cardiologist or surgeon. Your family practitioner or general cardiologists may refer you to a valve disease specialist who focuses almost exclusively on heart valve problems and repair.
Print our pre-surgery checklist: Facing and Recovering from Major Surgery (PDF)
This checklist is also available in Spanish (PDF).