Heart valve surgery is a procedure to treat heart valve disease. In heart valve disease, at least one of the four heart valves that keep blood flowing in the correct direction through your heart doesn't function properly. In heart valve surgery, your surgeon repairs or replaces the affected heart valves.
Heart valve diseases that may be treated by heart valve surgery include:
Heart valve surgery can result in:
- Improved quality of life
- Prolonged life
- Reduced symptoms
- Preservation of the function of your heart muscle
While all open-heart surgeries involve some risk, major complications are rare because of improved technology and surgical techniques. Most heart valve repair and replacement surgeries are successful in restoring the function of your heart with a low rate of complications.
Complications could include:
- Heart attack
- Irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
- Surgery needed for a new valve, in some instances, if the heart valve fails over time
Mayo Clinic heart (cardiac) surgeons perform heart valve surgery to treat many types of heart valve disease. Your surgeon can perform many procedures using minimally invasive heart surgery, using smaller incisions than in open heart surgery.
Your treatment depends on several factors including your age, your general health, the condition of your heart valves and your preference. A team of heart specialists (cardiologists), heart surgeons and other specialists work with you to determine the appropriate surgery to treat your condition.
Heart valve repair
Heart valve specialists and surgeons agree that whenever possible a heart valve should be repaired rather than replaced. Heart valve repair leaves you with your normally functioning tissue, which resists infection more effectively, and you don't need to take blood-thinning medications after the surgery.
If you have mild to moderate heart valve disease, your surgeon often performs heart valve repair. If your heart valve isn't closing properly (regurgitation), your surgeon may treat your condition using one of three surgeries.
- Annuloplasty. In this procedure, your surgeon tightens the ring of tissue around the valve to help the valve flaps (leaflets) come together. Sometimes your surgeon will implant a ring where the leaflets meet to make the valve opening smaller so the leaflets can come together.
- Repair of structural support. In this procedure, your surgeon replaces or shortens the cords that support the valves (chordae tendineae and papillary muscles) to repair the structural support. When the cords and muscles are the right length, the valve leaflet edges meet and eliminate the leak.
- Valve leaflet repair. In valve leaflet repair, your surgeon surgically separates, cuts or pleats a valve flap (leaflet) to repair a floppy or prolapsed valve leaflet.
Heart valve replacement
If your heart valve can't be repaired, your surgeon will remove your damaged valve and replace it with an artificial (prosthetic) valve. You may need heart valve replacement if you have valve narrowing (stenosis) or severely damaged valves affected by calcium buildup in the valves (calcification) or rheumatic disease. Surgeons perform procedures often to replace mitral or aortic valves, but your surgeon can replace any heart valve.
Heart valve replacements include:
- Mechanical valves. Mechanical valves are made of synthetic materials, which are designed to last many years. However, blood tends to stick to mechanical valves and create blood clots. If you have a mechanical valve, you'll need to take blood-thinning medicines (anticoagulants) for life.
Biological valves. Biological valves, or tissue valves, are made from animal tissue (xenograft) or taken from the human tissue of a donated heart (called an allograft or homograft). Sometimes, your own tissue can be used for valve replacement (autograft/Ross procedure).
If you have a biological valve, you usually don't need to take blood-thinning medication. However, biological valves aren't as durable as mechanical valves, and they eventually may need to be replaced. Surgeons most often use biological valves in older patients.
Mayo Clinic is one of the largest medical centers in the United States for heart valve surgery. Heart (cardiac) surgeons work together with heart specialists (cardiologists) and other specialists to coordinate your care. Surgeons perform complex heart valve surgeries, including surgeries for people who have high surgical risks or who have had heart valve surgery previously.
Heart surgeons perform many heart valve surgeries with minimally invasive heart surgery, including video thoracoscopic and robot-assisted surgery. Minimally invasive surgery involves the use of smaller incisions, and you may have less pain and a shorter recovery period after minimally invasive surgery. Mitral valve repair is one of the most common minimally invasive heart surgeries performed at Mayo Clinic.
Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is ranked among the Best Hospitals for heart and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic also ranks among the Best Children's Hospitals for heart and heart surgery.
Related book: Mayo Clinic Healthy Heart for Life! book provides an easy-to-follow plan to prevent and conquer heart disease.
Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is ranked among the Best Hospitals for heart and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report.
At Mayo Clinic, we assemble a team of specialists who take the time to listen and thoroughly understand your health issues and concerns. We tailor the care you receive to your personal health care needs. You can trust our specialists to collaborate and offer you the best possible outcomes, safety and service.
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical institution that reinvests all earnings into improving medical practice, research and education. We're constantly involved in innovation and medical research, finding solutions to improve your care and quality of life. Your doctor or someone on your medical team is likely involved in research related to your condition.
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Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people. In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.
Specialists in cardiovascular & thoracic surgery treat adults who have heart valve surgery at Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.
- U.S. Patients
- International Patients
Specialists in cardiothoracic surgery, cardiovascular diseases, heart transplant and the Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program treat adults who have heart valve surgery at Mayo Clinic in Florida.
For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.
- U.S. Patients
- International Patients
Specialists in cardiovascular diseases and cardiovascular surgery at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota treat adults and children who have heart valve surgery. Cardiac surgeons perform complex heart valve surgeries, often using minimally invasive techniques. Cardiac surgeons perform more than 1,400 heart valve surgeries each year.
Heart Valve Disease Clinic
The Heart Valve Disease Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota uses a team approach to diagnose and treat people who have heart valve disease. Doctors who have training in heart valve disease work with heart rhythm specialists (electrophysiologists), heart surgeons and other specialists to coordinate your care.
In most cases, your examination, diagnosis and patient education can be completed within a day. If surgery is necessary, a cardiac surgeon meets with you to discuss your options. In most cases, surgery can be performed the following day.
- Cardiovascular Diseases
- Cardiovascular Surgery
Please refer to the international appointment section to request appointments via phone.
See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.
Mayo Clinic doctors who have training in heart disease (cardiologists), surgeons and other researchers developed innovative surgical techniques for heart valve repair and replacement. Researchers actively study new treatment and surgical techniques for people who have heart valve disease or who may need heart valve surgery. Learn more about research on the research website.
Read more about current research in heart valve surgery in the Cardiovascular Update.
See a list of publications by Mayo Clinic doctors on heart valve disease on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.
Oct. 05, 2010