One of the many definitions of the word 'heart' describes it as 'the most essential or vital part of something.' That is a figurative usage, of course. An actual heart is a hollow muscular organ that acts as a pump and maintains the flow of blood in the body. Because it is an extremely hard-working organ, there are many things that can go wrong it. Heart disease is now the leading cause of death in the United States.
The heart has four major valves, all of which are responsible for moving huge quantities of blood to major arteries. The mitral valve is on the left side or atrium of the heart. When oxygenated blood moves from the lungs into the left atrium, the mitral valve prevents it from flowing back up to where it came from, into the left atrium. Doctors refer to this backwash as regurgitation, and it is almost always the result of a faulty or damaged heart valve.
Is it serious?
In a word, yes. When blood doesn't get to where it needs to go, the equilibrium of the entire circulatory system may be affected. Because it regulates blood flow to the aorta, the main trunk of arteries that carry blood to our organs and extremities, the mitral valve has a crucial role to play. If it does not open and close when it's supposed to, valve leakage (regurgitation) will occur and circulation will deteriorate.
What's the worst that could happen?
Like many progressive diseases, mitral regurgitation is often asymptomatic at the start. But once the valve disease develops and damages the structure, the patient's health may be affected. He might complain of shortness of breath, excessive urination, or general fatigue. In extreme or advanced cases, a patient may experience heart palpitations or atrial fibrillation. In these cases, the physician will almost always order an echocardiogram. If the volume of backflow or regurgitation is high, surgery may be the only option.
It is important to note that people with condition do not suffer heart attacks at a higher rate than the general population. With that said, mitral valve disorders are no laughing matter. They can and often do have a negative effect on quality of life. As we mentioned, fatigue and shortness of breath are common symptoms, which is why most patients decide to deal with the disease, rather than manage it.
What can be done?
Mitral valve repair is the most popular option for patients who have been diagnosed with mitral regurgitation (a leaky mitral valve). When compared with valve replacement, patients that undergo valve repair have a better long-term survival rate. The reason for this is surprisingly simple. The heart valve is their own, not an artificial or exogenous implant. As a result, there is a lower rate of rejection, complications, or infections (endocarditis). And unlike many patients who opt for replacement, those who choose repair rarely have to take anticoagulants (blood thinners) for the rest of their lives. There is also evidence that mitral valve repair patients have a lower risk of stroke than those that have total replacements.
How does it work?
When we use the term 'minimally invasive' to describe cardiac surgery, we mean that the entire chest does not have to be opened up. Most mitral valve repairs can now be completed through a two or three inch incision in the right side of the chest. The advantages of this technique are obvious. Surgery and recovery times are generally shorter, as are the scars. Of course, not all surgeries are the same.
Most patients that have a mitral valve dysfunction simply require a small resection (removal) of an abnormal part of the valve that is preventing it from closing properly. There are, however, more complicated procedures that are used to correct rarer disorders. An anterior leaflet dysfunction, for example, requires the creation of new chords, either by transfer or the implantation of artificial chords.
A prolapse is defined as a situation where something slips or falls out of place. The condition is quite common for people who suffer from mitral valve regurgitation. The position or location of the prolapse is crucial. When it affects the posterior leaflet, it is typically repaired with a technique called triangular resection, which calls for the removal of a small section of the mitral valve.
Because they perform these surgeries quite frequently, hospitals that specialize in cardiology and heart surgery are the best place to go for mitral valve repair.
The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. All medical information presented should be discussed with your healthcare professional. Remember, the failure to seek timely medical advice can have serious ramifications. We urge you to discuss any current health related problems you are experiencing with a healthcare professional immediately.