For blood to go in only one direction, forward, it must pass through the heart valves, which function as one-way doors, opening and shutting with each beat of the heart. Just as there are four chambers to the heart, there are four heart valves. Blood must pass through one of these valves each time it leaves a chamber.
Unfortunately, valves sometimes malfunction. There are two major problems that can occur with heart valves, stenosis or regurgitation.
This means narrowing, or the heart valve is so diseased that blood cannot pass easily through it. The valve is too tight. The primary problem is usually calcium deposits. The valve acts like a one-way door that will not open all of the way.
This means blood goes back the wrong way through the valve. The valve is leaky. The valve acts like a one-way door that will not shut all of the way. Another name used for regurgitation is insufficiency. The problem is usually tissue that has degenerated, or sometimes from infection.
You and your doctor will decide on whether you need valve repair or replacement and which type is right for you when surgery is deemed necessary, taking patient health, condition of the damaged valve, and expected benefits of surgery into consideration. Minimally invasive valve surgery may also be an option, depending many factors.
Most mitral valve disorders can be repaired, and our surgeons are experts in this procedure. There are a wide variety of techniques to enable us to repair these valves. However, there are some instances where the valve is too diseased for repair, and replacement is necessary. The aortic valve almost always has to be replaced.
You and your surgeon will review your particular valve problem and determine which procedure is best for you, and if your valve needs replacement, which type of valve is suitable.