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What Is a Balloon Valvuloplasty?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A balloon valvuloplasty enlarges a narrowed heart valve in a minimally invasive procedure. This can be used to address a congenital defect in the heart as well as an acquired stenosis, the medical term for hardening and narrowing. Patients undergo the procedure while under sedation for comfort and it may be performed on an outpatient basis, allowing people to go home the same day. If someone is already hospitalized for another condition, it may be necessary to stay in the hospital.

Before the surgery takes place, the patient may meet with the surgeon to discuss the options. Medical imaging like ultrasound of the heart can indicate whether a balloon valvuloplasty will be an effective treatment, and also helps the surgeon plan. An anesthesiologist can also meet with the patient to talk about sedation and pain control options, and to check for contraindications that might make the procedure dangerous. This includes allergies to sedatives or supplies that might be used, which would require an adjustment to the surgical care plan.

In this cardiac procedure, a catheter is threaded through a blood vessel in the leg to access the heart, with guidance from medical imaging equipment. Once in place, an inflatable balloon can be advanced into position and blown up to enlarge the valve. To remove the balloon, the surgeon gently deflates it and pulls it out, also removing the guide wire inserted at the start of the surgery. The widened valve should function better after a balloon valvuloplasty.

Alternative options for accessing the heart valves are more invasive and come with a higher risk of side effects. In cases where a balloon valvuloplasty is an option, it may be recommended because of the benefits for the patient. Some risks of this procedure can include infection, clotting, bleeding, or leakage from the repaired valve. These are rare, particularly in a facility with substantial experience. By contrast, more invasive open heart surgery to get to the valves can come with higher risks and a longer healing time.

Immediately after balloon valvuloplasty, the patient needs to stay in a recovery area for monitoring. The heart rhythm can be displayed on a monitor to check for signs of problems, and nurses also check vital signs and assess the patient’s comfort level. People in the recovery room should report strange sensations or concerns, as these may be signs of complications. For example, if someone feels unusually dizzy, this could be related to a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Read more
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