Mitral Valve Replacement
Mitral valve replacement is a surgical procedure in which a diseased or defective mitral valve in the heart is replaced with a mechanical or tissue valve. Medical conditions which may require this surgery include mitral stenosis (a narrowing of the valve) and mitral insufficiency (in which the valve does not close properly). In most cases, this surgery can improve or relieve symptoms caused by a defective mitral valve, such as chest pain, fainting, and fatigue. The average hospital stay associated with this procedure is 4 to 7 days.
What Is Mitral Valve Replacement?
Mitral valve replacement is a surgery used to remove a diseased or defective mitral valve and replace it with another valve.
In most cases, the surgery can improve the symptoms caused by a defective mitral valve, such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain.
Understanding Mitral Valve Disease
The heart is a hollow muscular organ about the size of a fist. The heart's primary job is to pump blood throughout the body.
The inside of a normal heart is divided into four chambers:
- Right atrium
- Left atrium
- Right ventricle
- Left ventricle.
Blood, in need of oxygen, flows in from the body and enters the right atrium. From the right atrium blood is squeezed into the right ventricle through one of the heart's valves.
Heart valves keep blood flowing in the right direction by opening to let the proper amount of blood flow through and then closing to prevent backflow.
From the right ventricle blood is pumped through another valve and then into the lungs, where it receives oxygen. Flowing back to the heart into the left atrium, the blood is then squeezed into the left ventricle through the mitral valve. From there, the oxygen-rich blood is pumped through the aortic valve and into the aorta, where it flows to the rest of the body.
There are two common types of mitral valve problems: mitral stenosis and mitral insufficiency.
Mitral valve stenosis is a narrowing of the valve. When this occurs, the heart has to push harder to get blood through the smaller opening, making it difficult for blood to leave the lungs and return to the heart. In older patients, stenosis may be caused by a buildup of calcium on the valve. This buildup also hardens the valve, which can hinder its ability to open and close properly.
Mitral valve insufficiency or leakage is another problem that can occur when a valve does not close properly. This allows blood to leak back through the valve, AWAY from the direction it SHOULD be going. With the mitral valve, this causes blood to leak backwards toward the lungs. Insufficiency can be caused by a valve that has simply become weak over time and is beginning to wear out.
Another less common cause of mitral valve disease can be an infection you may have had when you were younger called rheumatic fever. This infection may have damaged your mitral valve, causing scarring that is now making it function improperly.
Your valve is also affected by the blood supply to the heart. If you have had a heart attack or if there is poor blood flow because of narrowing in the arteries of the heart, then this may also contribute to your valve failing.
These problems may cause you to feel short of breath, fatigue, or chest pain and may even cause you to pass out.