Surgical Repair or Replacement of the Mitral Valve

Symptomatic patients who have severe mitral stenosis or chronic, severe mitral regurgitation may be candidates for mitral valve surgery. Mitral valve disease that requires surgery is usually treated with either repair of the damaged valve, or, if the damage is too severe, replacement of the damaged valve.

There are risks with every surgery, varying with each person and the procedure performed. Our approach is to ensure patients receive the best surgical option available at the lowest risk. Your risk depends on your heart function, age and overall health. Your cardiac surgeon will answer your questions and discuss in detail:

  • Type and severity of valve disease
  • Coexisting medical conditions or problems
  • Surgery options
  • Surgical risks
  • Your specific plan of care

This discussion becomes the framework by which the patient and cardiac surgeon collaboratively determine if mitral valve repair or mitral valve replacement is the best surgical option. It is our priority to repair rather than replace heart valves whenever possible to preserve a patient’s own heart valve so that blood thinning (anticoagulation) medications may not be required.

Mitral Valve Repair

Cardiac surgeons at the Center for Heart Valve Disease repair a patient’s own native valve when possible. Valve repair often provides the best long-term outcome of restoring proper valve function.

Mitral valve repair involves a surgical procedure during which the cardiac surgeon may need to trim, reshape or rebuild your diseased valve. During valve repair surgery, a ring is placed at the base of the heart valve to provide added support to the repaired valve. This procedure is referred to as an annuloplasty. For a period of time after mitral valve repair, patients may be required to take an anticoagulation (blood-thinning) medication. 

Mitral Valve Replacement

If the heart valve is too damaged to repair, heart valve replacement is needed. During mitral valve replacement the cardiac surgeon removes the diseased valve and replaces the diseased valve with either a mechanical valve or a tissue (bioprosthetic) valve.

Mechanical Valves for Mitral Valve Replacement

Mechanical valves are made of special carbon compounds and titanium. The valves are sturdy and designed to last a lifetime. Due to the metal parts, patients need to take an anticoagulation (blood-thinning) medication for the rest of their lives. The anticoagulants prevent blood clots from forming on the metal valve. Routine blood tests are needed to make sure the medicine dose is right for you.

Bioprosthetic Valves for Mitral Valve Replacement

Bioprosthetic valves are made from animal (bovine/cow) or human tissue. Unlike mechanical valves, patients that receive bioprosthetic valves do not have to take anticoagulants. Because these valves are made from natural tissue, bioprosthetic valves do not last as long as mechanical valves. Northwestern surgeons use bioprosthetic valves made from cow tissues because research has shown that these tissue valves are the most durable and last upwards of 15 years in most patients.

Locations Performing this Treatment

Contact Us

For more information regarding mitral valve disease or to obtain a consultation or second opinion, please contact the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 312.NM.HEART (664.3278).

Clinical Trials
For information regarding clinical trials related to mitral valve disease, please visit the Clinical Trials Unit of Northwestern, send an email or call 312.926.4000.

Referring Physicians
The Center for Heart Valve Disease team is available for physician-to-physician consultation regarding best patient care. Please contact the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 312.NM.HEART (664.3278).