How Do You Repair A Leaky Heart Valve?

If you’re concerned about your heart health you may have asked yourself, “How do you repair a leaky heart valve?” The condition most often called “leaky valve” is a type of heart disease called “valvular insufficiency”. A leaky heart valve occurs when a valve does not close tightly. In such cases some blood will leak backwards. This makes the heart work harder and may reduce blood flow to the rest of the body. When you have a leaky heart valve doctors have several choices in dealing with the problem.

  1. Medication. In many cases, repairing a leaky heart valve isn’t essential. According to WebMD,  Medications called vasodilators "lessen the heart's work" and encourage "the blood to flow in a forward direction".
  2. Surgery.  The surgical options for repairing a leaky heart valve include repairing or replacing the heart valve. This can involve traditional open heart surgery, which is the most invasive and therefore poses the most risk to the patient.  But there are are now less invasive methods. According to A. Marc Gillinov, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, "Minimally invasive mitral valve repair surgery is performed through a small incision, often using specialized surgical instruments. The incision is 2- to 4-inches instead of the 6- to 8-inch incision required for traditional surgery. Robotically assisted keyhole approaches or port-access techniques are also available for some types of surgery to or minimally invasive heart valve surgery."
  3. Non-Surgical Alternative.  In some cases of leaky heart valve a non-surgical approach may be taken.  A very new method was reported by Peggy Peck on It involves threading a clip on a catheter through an "artery in the groin". The catheter is fed though to the heart, where doctors use echocardiography (an image of the heart produced with sound waves) to help them place the clip. Once in place, this clip "acts like a clothes pin" and holds the valve flaps together.

If medication alone is effective, a doctor will likely choose not to repair a leaky heart valve. For in cases of leaky heart valves, like many medical conditions, the main objective is to do less harm than good.

Cleveland Clinic: Minimally Invasive Mitral Valve Repair

WebMD: Heart Valve Disease

ABC News

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