As the heart pumps, blood flow is regulated by valves on either side of the pumping chambers. Valves regulate flow into and out of the ventricles. Since the left ventricle provides blood to the body, most valve problems are related to either the mitral valve or the aortic valve. Either of these valves can fail to open properly, termed stenosis, or can leak after closing, termed regurgitation.
The most common aortic valve problem is aortic stenosis. In aortic stenosis, the aortic valve fails to open properly, thus obstructing blood flow out of the heart. Shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue, heart failure and even sudden death can result from this obstruction. The only effective treatment for aortic stenosis is aortic valve replacement. This is usually done with traditional open heart surgery, but in some cases can be done with minimally invasive surgery. For patients in whom surgical valve replacement carries too much risk, Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) can be performed. This procedure avoids utilizing the heart-lung machine and stopping the heart, and can be done either through the groin or through a small chest incision.
Mitral regurgitation is a condition in which the mitral valve does not close properly, such as with mitral valve prolapse. When the mitral valve leaks, blood is forced back into the lungs with each heartbeat. This causes shortness of breath, fatigue and other symptoms. Mitral valve repair offers many advantages over mitral valve replacement and is the preferred treatment for most patients. Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery Associates is a leader in mitral valve repair with successful repair in over 90% of patients. Most isolated mitral valve operations can be performed with a minimally invasive approach, thus eliminating the need to divide the breastbone. Dr. Mehall is a recognized expert on minimally invasive mitral valve repair.