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Understanding Mitral Valve Replacement

The mitral valve controls the flow of oxygen-rich blood from the lungs through the heart and to the rest of the body. If you have a defective mitral valve, blood can back up into your lungs and cause chest pain, shortness of breath, and other symptoms. Certain medical conditions — such as mitral valve stenosis and mitral valve prolapse — can disrupt and damage the mitral valve. 

When the mitral valve is too damaged to repair, your doctor may recommend mitral valve replacement surgery. Mitral valve replacement involves removing the faulty valve, and replacing it with a new one. A successful surgery relieves symptoms and prevents complications of mitral valve disease

At Dignity Health, our knowledgeable doctors can talk to you about your symptoms and address concerns about your heart health, including questions about mitral valve replacement, in the Bay Area. Find a Doctor using our online search tool.

Knowing What to Expect from Mitral Valve Replacement

Mitral valve replacement surgery can be performed using minimally invasive methods, or as traditional, open heart surgery. 

In minimally invasive valve replacement, several small incisions are made in the chest area. Your surgeon removes the faulty mitral valve through these openings, and inserts the new valve using specialized surgical instruments. 

In a traditional, open heart surgery valve replacement, your surgeon makes a long incision along your breastbone to expose the heart and perform the replacement. 

Replacement valves can be biological (human or animal tissue) or mechanical (usually made of titanium or carbon). With a mechanical valve, your doctor may prescribe blood-thinning medication to reduce the risk of blood clots.

Both types of mitral valve replacement surgery come with risks and potential complications. However, minimally invasive surgery typically has a shorter hospital stay and a faster recovery time. 

Recovering after Mitral Valve Replacement

Your recovery starts in a specialized cardiac unit immediately after surgery. When your condition is stable, you will be moved to a regular hospital room. 

You will receive detailed instructions regarding prescription medications, activity restrictions, and how to care for your incision once you are ready to be discharged from the hospital. Your Dignity Health doctor will let you know when to return for a follow-up appointment, and how to report any unusual symptoms. 

Our heart care team is always available to answer your questions with respect and compassion. Learn more about our cardiovascular treatments and other cardiac services offered at Dignity Health hospitals in the Bay Area.