Treatment

Heart valve disease treatment depends on how severe your condition is, if you're experiencing signs and symptoms, and if your condition is getting worse.

A doctor trained in heart disease (cardiologist) will provide your care. If you have heart valve disease, consider being evaluated and treated at a medical center with a multidisciplinary team of doctors and medical staff trained and experienced in evaluating and treating heart valve disease. This team can work closely with you to determine the most appropriate treatment for your condition.

Your doctor may suggest monitoring your condition with regular follow-up appointments. Your doctor may also recommend making healthy lifestyle changes and taking medications to treat symptoms.

You may eventually need heart valve surgery to repair or replace the diseased heart valve. Doctors may suggest heart valve surgery even if you aren't experiencing symptoms, as this may prevent complications and improve outcomes. If you need surgery for another heart condition, your doctor may repair or replace the diseased valve at the same time.

Heart valve surgery is usually performed through a cut (incision) in the chest. Doctors may sometimes conduct minimally invasive heart surgery, which involves the use of smaller incisions than those used in open-heart surgery. In some medical centers, doctors may perform robot-assisted heart surgery, a type of minimally invasive heart surgery in which surgeons use robotic instruments to conduct the procedure.

Doctors may also use less invasive procedures to repair certain valves using long, thin tubes (catheters) in some people. These procedures can involve the use of clips, plugs or other devices. In some cases, valves can be replaced during a catheter procedure. Doctors continue to study catheter procedures to repair or replace heart valves.

Surgery options include:

Heart valve repair

Your doctor may often recommend heart valve repair when possible, as it preserves your heart valve and may preserve heart function. To repair a valve, surgeons may separate valve flaps (leaflets or cusps) that have fused, replace the cords that support the valve, remove excess valve tissue so that the leaflets or cusps can close tightly or patch holes in a valve. Surgeons may often tighten or reinforce the ring around a valve (annulus) by implanting an artificial ring.

Doctors may conduct a procedure using a long, thin tube (catheter) to repair a valve with a narrowed opening. In this procedure, a doctor inserts a catheter with a balloon on the tip into an artery in your arm or groin and guides it to the valve.

A doctor then inflates the balloon, which expands the opening of the valve. The balloon is then deflated, and the catheter and balloon are removed. You may need additional procedures to treat the narrowed valve over time.

Heart valve replacement

In some cases, the valve can't be repaired, and surgeons may perform heart valve replacement. In heart valve replacement, your surgeon removes the damaged valve and replaces it with a mechanical valve or a valve made from cow, pig or human heart tissue (biological tissue valve).

Biological tissue valves degenerate over time, and often eventually need to be replaced. People with mechanical valves will need to take blood-thinning medications for life to prevent blood clots. Your doctor will discuss with you the benefits and risks of each type of valve and discuss which valve may be appropriate for you.