The mitral valve controls blood flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle of the heart. When the mitral valve malfunctions, blood may leak backwards if the valve's flaps do not shut completely (mitral valve prolapse) or blood flow may be greatly reduced if the opening of the valve narrows (mitral valve stenosis). The heart then needs to work harder to pump, which can weaken the heart and cause it to enlarge. While some patients experience no symptoms at all, others have symptoms such as dyspnea (shortness of breath), chest pain, swelling of the ankles and legs, and dizziness.
Mitral valve damage is caused by a number of conditions, including rheumatic fever, heart attack, infections, and myxomatous degeneration, which is an inherited disorder that weakens the heart valve tissue. Mild mitral valve disease may not need to be treated, and symptoms can be managed with medication. However, surgery to repair the mitral valve or mitral valve replacement surgery may be needed.
Heart valve repair can be performed on some mitral valves to enable them to open and shut more efficiently. Procedures for valve repair include:
Ring annuloplasty, which tightens the ring supporting the valve (called the annulus) by inserting an artificial ring made of metal, tissue or cloth around the valve.
Valve repair, which reconstructs the weakened or damaged parts of the valve, such as the flaps and the muscles and tendons that open and shut the valves.
BWH Cardiac Valve Center: a world leader in mitral valve repair
BWH is a world leader in repair for mitral valve disease and its underlying conditions. Our expert team at the Cardiac Valve Center has performed over 4,000 mitral valve repair surgeries since 1971. The Center, located at BWH's state-of-the art Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, now treats over 800 patients each year, and our cardiac valve surgery program is one of the largest in the U.S. Our expert team of cardiologists, surgeons, anesthesiologists, radiologists and cardiac nurses provide the most advanced care to patients who need surgery to repair or replace heart valves, including aortic valve replacement.
A leader in minimally invasive surgery for mitral valve repair
Mitral valve repair may be performed using minimally invasive surgery techniques for many patients. Using very small incision, surgeons repair the mitral valve in a way that results in reduced trauma, less blood loss and less pain, and often reduced length of hospital stay.
BWH was one of the first U.S. hospitals to perform minimally invasive mitral valve surgery and aortic valve repair and is a leading Boston cardiology and cardiovascular care provider. Our surgeons have performed more than 2,600 minimally invasive valve surgeries to date and our researchers are working on new kinds of minimally invasive surgery for patients with heart valve disease.