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A properly functioning heart is essential for a healthy body and a long life. Because the heart is comprised of several different areas, each conducting its own specific tasks, making repairs to each area requires specialized surgical techniques. The mitral-or left hand-valve of the heart is one such area.
The mitral valve is, on its own, a complex structure that controls the flow of blood through the heart's left side. It opens and closes at regular, rhythmic intervals, allowing blood from the lungs to enter and exit the heart's main pumping chamber. When it malfunctions or is damaged, the mitral valve can allow blood to flow backward or to leak out of the heart, leading to many potential health issues, up to and including cardiac arrest. In many instances, surgery on the mitral valve can quickly become a life-saving requirement.
Mitral valve repair surgery is an intricate and delicate procedure whether it is regular or minimally invasive. Depending upon the condition of the heart and the patient's general health, the cardiac surgeon will determine which type of mitral valve repair surgery is the best option.
Regular surgical mitral valve repair is a major procedure that requires the patient to be placed under general anesthesia and hooked up to a heart-lung machine for the duration of the process. A cut of approximately ten inches is made in the sternum and the rib cage is spread open to allow the surgeon access to the heart. Depending upon the degree of damage, the mitral valve will then be repaired or replaced.
In many cases, the surgeon will repair the valve or perform a ring annuloplasty. A ring annuloplasty is the procedure performed to repair the ring-like portion of tissue surrounding the valve by sewing a ring of cloth, tissue or metal around it. In valve repair, the surgeon will shape or rebuild one or more of the three leaflets that make up the valve. These are the parts of the valve that open and close it.