Key Points about Minimally Invasive Mitral Valve Replacement

  • Minimally invasive mitral valve replacement is a new approach to replacing a damaged mitral valve, that tends to have a shorter recovery time, fewer complications, and leave fewer visible scars.
  • People with a damaged mitral valve who are not eligible for mitral valve repair may be eligible for mitral valve replacement.
  • Like many cardiac procedures, risks from minimally invasive mitral valve replacement may include blood clotting, bleeding, infection, heart arrhythmia and stroke.
  • Ask your doctor about minimally invasive options for cardiac procedures.

Overview

A new set of minimally invasive approaches to replacing damaged mitral valves are growing in popularity. Unlike traditional methods of replacing the mitral valve, which involve cutting through the breastbone, minimally invasive replacement methods require much smaller incisions, and leave the breastbone intact.

When a mitral valve is functioning correctly, it allows oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to enter the main pumping chamber of the heart, while preventing that blood from moving back to the lungs. When the valve becomes somehow damaged, blood begins to flow back in the direction of the lungs, requiring mitral valve replacement or repair.

Minimally invasive mitral valve replacement is increasingly favored over standard open-chest repair methods due to the new procedures’ shorter recovery time, decreased pain and scarring, and lower risk of complications. 

About minimally invasive mitral valve replacement

Minimally invasive mitral valve replacement is a treatment for mitral regurgitation or insufficiency. The procedure involves removing the faulty valve and replacing it with a valve that is either mechanical or derived from biological tissue from a human or animal heart.

Candidates minimally invasive mitral valve replacement

People with a damaged mitral valve who are not eligible for mitral valve repair, and for whom mitral valve disease is the only cardiac issue present, may be eligible for mitral valve replacement.

Expectations for minimally invasive mitral valve replacement

About seven days before your scheduled procedure, your doctor will likely have you come in for tests such as blood work.

On the day of your procedure, you can expect to receive anesthesia from an experienced cardiothoracic anesthesiologist.

After the procedure, you will be sent to the ICU overnight, where your heart function will be monitored. You will then be transferred to a normal hospital room, where you will likely recover for two to three more days.

To lower your risk of stroke, your doctor will prescribe blood-thinning medications for three months following the procedure. Patients with mechanical valves will take a blood-thinning medication for the rest of their lives. Your doctor will also recommend maintaining a healthy diet, staying physically active and refraining from smoking tobacco, to promote recovery and heart health.

Replacement valves constructed from biological tissue often require eventual replacement. Following a valve replacement, you will see your doctor for regular check-ups to assess valve function.

Before treatment, your doctor will provide you with a detailed outline of what to expect leading up to, during, and after your procedure.

Benefits of minimally invasive mitral valve replacement

Benefits of minimally invasive mitral valve replacement over traditional open-chest procedures may include:

  • Less postoperative pain
  • Faster recovery time
  • Shorter stay in hospital
  • Decreased risk of complications, including atrial fibrillation and scarring
  • Decreased scarring
  • The ability to undergo multiple procedures at once

Risks of minimally invasive mitral valve replacement

Undergoing any surgery comes with its risks. Possible risks from minimally invasive mitral valve replacement may include:

  • Blood clotting
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Stroke
  • Death

Recovery from minimally invasive mitral valve replacement

After receiving this procedure, most patients recover in the hospital for three or four days. Patients can generally begin to participate in activities such as athletics and operating vehicles again after only one to two weeks--compared to six to eight weeks with traditional open-chest heart procedures.