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Healtheuniversity > English > Cardiac College > Treat Heart Disease > Heart Procedures > Valve Repair and Replacement

Valve Repair and Replacement

If you are living with heart valve disease (also called valvular heart disease), one or more of the valves in your heart are not working properly (Learn more about valves and valve disorders)

If the condition is serious, you may need your valve repaired or replaced. Some heart valve procedures are major surgical operations, while others are less invasive. Your doctor will talk to you about the best treatment option for you.

Valve Repair

Some valves are repaired using open-heart surgery through your breastbone, into your chest. This is an invasive surgery. Doctors may repair a valve by:

  • Removing calcium buildup
  • Reshaping the valve
  • Enlarging the valve opening
  • Shortening the cords that support the valve

In some cases, a valve can be repaired using a minimally invasive procedure. In these procedures, the surgeon does not go through your breastbone to access your heart. Examples of minimally invasive valve repair include:

Percutaneous or balloon valvuloplasty/valvotomy – this procedure can repair a heart valve that is stiff or has a narrowed opening. During the procedure, the doctor inserts a long narrow tube (called a catheter) into your blood vessel, through a small incision (cut), usually in your groin. Once the catheter is in position in your heart, the doctor inflates a balloon that is attached to the end of the catheter. The inflated balloon opens the narrowed valve.

Percutaneous valve repair – these procedures can repair a leaky heart valve. In one example, a doctor inserts a long narrow tube (called a catheter) into your blood vessel, through a small incision (cut) in your groin. The catheter carries a clip that is guided to the leaky valve in your heart. The doctor places the clip so that it holds the flaps (leaflets) of the valve together and stops the leaking.

Valve Replacement

If your heart valve is too damaged to be repaired, you may need surgery to replace the valve. The valve may be replaced with one of 2 types of valves:

  • A new mechanical valve (made of metal or plastic parts that are well-tolerated by the body)
  • A biological valve (also called a bioprosthetic or tissue valve, and made of human or animal tissue)

In some cases, your doctor may recommend a less invasive procedure to replace your valve, such as a transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI). [It also called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)].

During a TAVI procedure, a new valve is implanted on top of the damaged one, using a long narrow tube called a catheter. The doctor inserts the catheter through small incisions (cuts) in your groin (the area near where your leg attaches to your body) or chest.

People who have a TAVI procedure often recover faster and have shorter hospital stays than people who have open-heart valve surgery. TAVI can be a safer option for people who are at high risk for complications from open-heart surgery. Your healthcare team will assess your symptoms and overall health to know if TAVI is an option for you.

>See how valve replacement can help blood to flow through your heart better (opens in new window)

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