A valvuloplasty is a procedure to repair a heart valve that has a narrowed opening.
Four heart valves — the aortic, mitral, tricuspid and pulmonary valves — open and close to let blood flow through the heart. In a narrowed heart valve (stenosis), the valve flaps (leaflets) may become thick or stiff and fuse together. Valve stenosis reduces blood flow through the valve.
A valvuloplasty may improve blood flow through the heart valve. It may also improve symptoms of heart valve disease, such as shortness of breath or chest pain.
Valvuloplasty may also be called:
- Balloon valvuloplasty
- Balloon valvotomy
- Percutaneous balloon valvuloplasty
Why it's done
Valvuloplasty is done to repair a narrowed heart valve (valve stenosis). It may be done to treat:
- Aortic valve stenosis
- Mitral valve stenosis
- Pulmonary valve stenosis (pulmonic stenosis)
- Tricuspid valve stenosis
Untreated, some types of heart valve stenosis can lead to complications, including irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) and heart failure.
You and your health care provider may discuss whether valvuloplasty or another treatment is right for your specific type and stage of heart valve disease. Valvuloplasty may be recommended if you have severe valve narrowing that's causing symptoms. But some people with heart valve disease need valvuloplasty even if the condition isn't severe or when it's not causing symptoms.
The decision to have a valvuloplasty may also depend on the valve affected. For example, the aortic valve tends to narrow again in adults who've had a valvuloplasty. So the procedure is usually done if you're too sick for surgery or are waiting for a valve replacement.
What you can expect
In balloon valvuloplasty, a catheter is inserted in the heart and guided to the narrowed valve. The balloon is then inflated, which expands the opening of the valve.
Valvuloplasty is done in the hospital, usually while you're awake. A medication called a sedative may be used to help you relax.
Valvuloplasty is done during a procedure called cardiac catheterization. The heart doctor (cardiologist) inserts a soft, thin tube (catheter) tipped with a balloon into a blood vessel, usually in the groin. The catheter is carefully guided to the narrowed valve in the heart. Once in position, the balloon is inflated to widen the valve, improving blood flow. The balloon is then deflated, and the catheter with balloon is removed.
After the procedure, an overnight hospital stay is typically required. Regular health checkups and imaging tests of the heart are needed after valvuloplasty to make sure the heart valve is working properly.
Valvuloplasty may improve blood flow through the heart and reduce symptoms. However, the valve may narrow again. You may need to have another valvuloplasty or other heart procedure, such as valve repair or replacement, in the future.