The valves of the heart pump blood through the chambers of the heart and prevent blood from flowing backwards. When heart valves do not function properly, they have to work harder to circulate blood through the body, which may weaken the heart and cause it to enlarge. While in some cases, heart valve disease may be managed with medication, very often surgery to repair the heart valves or heart valve replacement surgery is needed.
Heart valves can sometimes be repaired so that they open and close more efficiently. Heart valve repair procedures include:
Ring annuloplasty. This procedure tightens the annulus (the ring supporting the valve) by inserting a prosthetic ring made of metal, cloth or tissue around the valve.
Valve repair. This procedure reconstructs the damaged or weakened flaps, muscles and tendons that function to open and close the heart valves.
Patients today requiring mitral valve or aortic valve surgery have a number of heart valve replacement options. Bioprosthetic valves involve heart valves and tissue from taken from animals. Mechanical valves are made of metal, carbon or synthetics. And replacement surgery with biologic valves uses human tissue from organ donors or from the patient's own pulmonary valve. While heart valve replacement is a major surgery, advances in surgical techniques and technology have greatly reduced the risks and recovery time.
For patients requiring heart valve replacement, Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) offers state-of-the-art care in one of the leading cardiovascular centers in the country.
BWH Cardiac Valve Center: a state-of-the-art center for heart valve repair and replacement
For nearly a century, BWH has delivered comprehensive treatment to patients with complex heart disorders. BWH performed the world's first successful heart valve surgery in 1923. Today, our Shapiro Cardiovascular Center is the most advanced center of its kind in the region and the cardiac valve surgery program is one of the largest in the country, treating more than 800 patients every year. Our team of specialists deliver innovative care to patients requiring surgery for aortic valve replacement and mitral valve replacement. Our combination of world-class technology, state-of-the-art techniques and compassionate patient care is the reason BWH is consistently ranked as one of the top cardiovascular centers in the U.S.
A leader in minimally invasive surgery for valve repair or replacement
Minimally invasive surgery for valve repair is an option for many patients without coronary heart disease. Surgeons use very small incisions to access the heart and perform heart valve repair or replacement. This type of surgery often reduces trauma, blood loss and pain for patients undergoing the surgery and results in a shorter hospital stay. BWH is one of the first hospitals in the U.S. to perform minimally invasive mitral valve surgery and aortic valve repair and has performed more than 2,600 such surgeries to date. Today, BWH is on the forefront of research into new kinds of minimally invasive surgery for patients with heart valve disease.