Mitral valve disease refers to irregular conditions of the mitral valve. This valve is located between the two left chambers of your heart. It works to keep blood flowing properly in one direction from the left atrium to the left ventricle and prevents it from flowing backward.

When your mitral valve does not work properly, you can experience symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath because the defective valve is allowing blood to flow backward into the left atrium. Many people with mitral valve disease experience no symptoms depending on chronicity of the condition.

When the mitral valve does not function as it should, your heart does not pump enough blood out of the left ventricular chamber to supply your body with oxygen-filled blood. Mitral valve disease can be serious. Left untreated, severe cases can lead to heart failure or irregular heartbeats, called arrhythmias, which may be life-threatening.

There are two main types of mitral valve disease:

1.Stenosis – the valve does not open enough to allow sufficient blood flow. Usually this is the result of hardening (calcification) of the leaflets, which prevents their movement.

2.Regurgitation – blood leaks backward out of the valve. Usually this is either the result of the leaflets being pulled apart so that blood leaks backward between them, or by damage to the valve structure.



If your symptoms are more severe, your mitral valve may need to be repaired. A cardiothoracic surgeon can perform a surgical procedure to remove or reshape tissue, patch holes or tears in the valve, or separate flaps that have fused together.

There are two different surgical approaches that can be utilized: traditional or minimally invasive.

During traditional mitral valve surgery, the cardiothoracic surgeon makes a 6- to 8-inch long incision down the center of your sternum (breastbone) to open the chest, providing direct access to your heart.

In minimally invasive surgery, the surgeon makes a 2- to 4-inch, J-shaped incision that opens part of your chest. This can potentially reduce hospital stay.

Minimally invasive surgery is not appropriate for all patients, but your surgeon will review the recommended approach to surgery that is safest for you based on your individual symptoms and circumstances.


If the mitral valve is too damaged, it may need to be replaced. There are two options for mitral valve replacement—mechanical valves (metal) or biological valves (tissue).

The principal advantage of mechanical valves is their durability—they do not wear out; however, blood tends to clot on mechanical valves, so patients must take blood thinning medication (anticoagulants) for the rest of their lives. There is also a small risk of stroke due to blood clotting.

Biological valves usually are made from animal tissue. Biological valves are less likely to cause blood clots, but they also are less durable than mechanical valves and may need to be replaced in the future.

Like mitral valve repair, replacement can be done minimally invasively or with traditional open heart surgery.

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