Mitral Valve Replacement


The mitral valve is on the left side of the heart. It allows blood to flow from the left upper chamber into the left lower chamber. When the valve is not working well, it may need to be replaced.

Reasons for Procedure

Healthy heart valves allow blood to flow one way. Diseased valves either leak and cause backflow, or narrow and restrict blood flow. The condition can be life threatening. Sometimes the valve can be repaired. Other times, it must be replaced.Rheumatic fever , other infections, defects at birth, and wear and tear are the most common causes of mitral valve problems.

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Damage to the heart or other organs
  • Reaction to anesthesia
Factors that may increase your risk of complications include:
  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Chronic diseases, such as diabetes or obesity

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor will evaluate both your general health and the condition of your heart and circulation. Some tests may include an electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiogram , or cardiac catheterization . Talk to your doctor about medications, herbs, or supplements you are taking. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedureDo not eat or drink anything the night before your procedure.


General anesthesia is given before surgery. You will be asleep.

Description of the Procedure

An incision will be made along the length of your breast bone. The breast bone will be split lengthwise to expose your heart. You will then be put on a heart-lung machine. This machine takes over the work of your heart so that the doctor can stop your heart.Your heart will be opened. A substitute valve will be sewn into place. This valve may be mechanical (metal and plastic), such as a St. Jude valve, or it may be made of tissue. Tissue valves most often come from a pig or a cow. Tissue valves may also be supplied by a human donor or even manufactured from your own tissues. When the valve is in place, you will be taken off the heart-lung machine and your heart will be re-started. The incision will be closed.
Mitral Valve Replacement
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Newer techniques, including robot-assisted procedures , are being developed. These procedures will be able to do the same surgery with smaller incisions.

Immediately After Procedure

You will be taken to a recovery room. Your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing will be monitored.

How Long Will It Take?

About 2-5 hours

How Much Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.

Average Hospital Stay

The usual length of stay is 8-10 days. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications arise.

Postoperative Care

At the HospitalYou will probably spend 1-3 days in the intensive care unit (ICU) and several more days in a regular hospital room. During this time, your care team will:
  • Observe you for any complications
  • Stabilize your heart function
  • Instruct you in home care and activities
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
  • Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
  • Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
  • Not allowing others to touch your incisions
At HomeOnce you get home:
  • Take prescription medications, such as blood thinners or antibiotics.
  • Antibiotics may be needed before dental procedures and during certain other procedures. This will help prevent a valve infection.
  • You will slowly return to your usual activities over a 4-12 week period. You may also be asked to participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program.
Mechanical valves can last a lifetime. Tissue valves last 7-14 years and then must be replaced. If your valve is repaired and you have no complications, you will likely do well and be able to return to normal activities.

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