The mitral valve of the heart controls the flow of blood between the left atrium and the left ventricle. In mitral valve disease, either the valve does not close properly, allowing some blood to leak backwards (regurgitation), or the valve does not open properly (stenosis), inhibiting blood flow. The heart then needs to pump harder, which can weaken the heart and cause it to enlarge. Symptoms of valve disease are similar to other heart conditions and may include shortness of breath (dyspnea), chest pain, palpitations, or swelling in the legs.
In mild cases, symptoms may be managed with medication. However, surgery may be needed, including mitral valve repair or replacement. Patients today requiring mitral valve replacement or other heart valve replacement surgery have two options: biologic valves, which include valves taken from animals or from human donors, and mechanical valves, made from metal, plastic or another artificial material. While mitral valve replacement is a major surgery, advances in surgical techniques and technology have greatly reduced pain, complications, and recovery time and improved outcomes.
For patients who need mitral valve replacement, Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) offers state-of-the-art care, delivering innovative and comprehensive care for patients with complex cardiovascular diseases.
BWH Cardiac Valve Center: a state-of-the-art center for mitral valve replacement
BWH has been at the center of many firsts in cardiovascular care, including the world's first mitral valve surgery in 1923. Our cardiac valve surgery program, one of the largest in the U.S., treats more than 800 patients each year. The program is part of the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, the most advanced center of its kind in the region. Our expert team of cardiologists, surgeons, radiologists, anesthesiologists and cardiac nurses deliver the most advanced care to patients requiring surgery, including aortic valve replacement. Our combination of state-of-the-art technology, innovative 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 mitral valve replacement
For patients without coronary disease, minimally invasive surgery may be an option. Surgeons can access the heart through very small incisions to perform a mitral valve replacement or repair procedure. This technique results in less trauma, blood loss, and pain for patients undergoing the surgery, and usually a shorter hospital stay. BWH was one of the first hospitals in the country to perform minimally invasive aortic valve repair and mitral valve surgery in 1996, and since then BWH surgeons have performed more than 2,600 such surgeries. BWH is now one of 24 hospitals in the U.S. that are researching a new kind of minimally invasive surgery called percutaneous aortic valve replacement to treat patients with severe aortic stenosis.