The mitral valve, located on the left side of the heart, is like a gatekeeper for blood. When it closes, it stops blood from flowing back to the lungs. It also opens to let blood into the left ventricle, which is one of the heart's chambers.
Sometimes, the valve does not close properly, causing blood leakage. A patient may require a mitral valve reconstruction due to abnormalities from a birth defect. Malfunctioning may also occur due to coronary artery disease or degeneration from aging. If the damage is too severe, the surgeon may need to replace the valve instead of repairing it.
Mitral valve reconstruction will typically take about three to five hours. To prepare, patients should inform their doctors of any drugs they take. Certain medications, such as blood thinners, may need to be discontinued prior to surgery. They must also follow the doctor's directions regarding eating or drinking on the day of the procedure.
Patients will be placed under general anesthesia to render them unconscious. A large incision is made. When the surgeon has access to the heart, there are several different techniques he may use to repair it, depending on the damage. If necessary, he may remove excess tissue to reshape it.
In some cases, the surgeon may need to repair the cords that provide support to the valve. The existing cords may be shortened or synthetic cords may be substituted. This allows the edges of the valve to meet properly, which prevents any leaking. The surgeon may also implant an annuloplasty device. This is used to anchor the outer edges of the valve, to allow it to function properly.
After mitral valve reconstruction, the patient will usually need to stay overnight at the hospital for a few days. Depending on the general health of the patient and the outcome of the surgery, he may need to stay in an intensive care unit. Once the patient is discharged from the hospital, he can expect to spend the next several months recovering. The surgeon will give specific instructions regarding care of the incision and physical activity.
Before undergoing a mitral valve reconstruction, patients should be aware of the possible risks involved. With any surgery, there is a risk of infection, however, this is uncommon. Some patients may experience an adverse reaction to the anesthesia. Occasionally, the valve repair may fail and additional surgery may be required. Patients should discuss any concerns they have with their doctor.