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Heart Valve Disease

Posted on March 11, 2021

What is Heart Valve Disease?

Heart Valve Function

The heart has four valves that help blood flow from the heart throughout the body and also prevent backflow. The mitral valve lies between two chambers of the heart on the left side, the left atrium and the left ventricle. The mitral valve allows blood to flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle in the heart.

Signs the mitral valve is weakening include symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath. If these symptoms become severe, surgery may be necessary.

If one of your heart valves isn’t functioning properly, a cardiac surgeon may operate to repair the valve or replace it with an artificial one. This will ensure that blood can flow into the left ventricle and then flow out to the body normally, without putting extra stress on the heart. 

Reasons for Surgery

Click to enlarge image
Click to enlarge image

Mitral valve stenosis and mitral valve regurgitation (also known as mitral insufficiency) are two different types of problems that might need valve replacement.

  • In mitral valve stenosis, the valve is unable to open fully. This means less blood is able to move from the left atrium into the left ventricle.
  • In mitral valve regurgitation, the valve is leaky. Some blood leaks back into the left atrium instead of moving forward into the left ventricle.

Both mitral stenosis and mitral regurgitation can result from general aging of the valve. Other causes of mitral valve disease include coronary artery disease, heart failure, infection of the heart valves or rheumatic fever.

Minimally Invasive Repair

Many cardiac operations today are performed through a sternotomy, which involves splitting the entire breastbone. Minimally invasive cardiac surgery encompasses a variety of operations performed through incisions that are substantially smaller and less traumatic than the standard sternotomy.

During a mini-thoracotomy for mitral repair, the surgeon makes several small incisions around the breastbone or between the ribs, and uses specialized instruments and a tiny camera through the incision to do the surgery. Some surgeons use robotic-controlled arms to perform the surgery. The minimally invasive approach allows shorter and easier recovery time for the patient.


Learn More

East Tennessee Cardiovascular Surgery Group provides complete cardiac and thoracic care. For more information about our heart care services or our medical team, please call (865) 632-5900


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