What is mitral valve disease?
The mitral valve allows the blood to pass from the left atrium to the left ventricle, and closes when the ventricle is full to prevent backflow.
Mitral valve disease is where the valve does not open properly or is narrowed, or does not close properly. This causes pressure on the heart and lungs, causing symptoms of palpitations, breathlessness and dizziness. If left untreated, it can lead to heart failure because the heart can no longer pump enough blood around the body.
For an accurate mitral valve disease diagnosis, the consultant will perform tests like:
Surgery is required to either replace or mend the mitral valve in the heart.
The surgery will definitely improve your quality of life by relieving breathlessness and chest pain and increase your energy levels.
Depending on the progress of the disease, the alternatives to the surgery could be drug treatments such as diuretics, ACE-inhibitors and digoxin are the main alternatives to surgery.
What does the operation involve?
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes between two and three hours.
If the mitral valve flaps can be repaired, the surgeon will make an incision along your chest and partially clip or sew the flaps so that amount of blood leaking is reduced.
If the valve cannot be repaired, the surgeon will have to replace the valve with either a mechanical valve or a tissue one. You will be connected to a heart-lung machine, which allows the heart to be opened and the valve replaced or repaired.
The consultant will explain the procedure step by step, answering every question you might have.
What are the risks of the surgery?
The two types of surgeries are generally successful as with every surgery, complications can always arise. The mitral valve replacement surgery has a higher risk of life-threatening problems than the repair surgery.
Any surgery carries certain risks such as pain, bleeding, unsightly scarring, blood clots, blood loss, breathing problems, infection, allergic reactions to the medicines
Specific risks of this surgery could be:
- Infection in the chest wound
- Heart attack
How soon will I recover?
After the operation you will be transferred to the cardiac intensive-care unit or high-dependency unit, usually for 24 hours, and then to the ward.
You should be able to go home after seven to ten days.
Your surgeon, physiotherapist and occupational therapist will tell you when you can return to normal activities.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice. Most people make a good recovery, with no more breathlessness or chest pain. You may have more energy after you recover.
How to pay for your procedure
Mitral valve replacement costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the operation will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.