Percutaneous Balloon Aortic and Mitral Valvuloplasty
The heart has four valves - one in each chamber - which open and close following every heartbeat to ensure blood flow in only one direction. Percutaneous balloon valvuloplasty, performed in a catheterization laboratory, involves guiding a flexible catheter through arteries and into the heart to open a defective heart valve. The procedure is used when a valve does not completely open because of narrowing or stenosis. The condition occurs most frequently in the mitral valve between the left atrium and ventricle, the aortic valve in the left ventricle, and the pulmonary valve in the right ventricle. Pulmonary and mitral valve balloon valvuloplasty procedures have high success rates. Treating aortic stenosis in this manner is usually reserved for patients who are not candidates for valve replacement surgery.
Heart valve stenosis, which makes the heart pump harder, may be caused by heart disease, aging or rheumatic fever. Patients with valvular stenosis may exhibit the following symptoms: chest pain, lightheadedness, palpitations, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Other symptoms include rapid weight gain and swelling (edema) in the legs, feet and ankles due to fluid retention.
During the procedure, the cardiologist inserts a catheter into an artery or vein in the groin area and then gently guides it into the heart with the aid of x-ray fluoroscopy. On the tip of the catheter is a small balloon which can be inflated and deflated. The tip is placed inside the narrowed heart valve, and the balloon is then inflated and deflated several times to widen the valve opening.
Fasting for eight or more hours is required before undergoing a balloon valvuloplasty. Risks from the procedure include formation of blood clots and possible stroke, arrhythmias, rupture of an artery or heart valve by the catheter, infection or bleeding. Internal heart valve damage can also occur and rarely requires open heart surgery for repair. If a patient is not a candidate for balloon valvuloplasty, then valve repair or replacement requiring open heart surgery is an option. Valves that can be surgically implanted include mechanical valves and tissue valves (most often made from cow or pig tissue). Mechanical valves can last a lifetime, but patients must take blood-thinning medications for the rest of their lives as well. Tissue valves often do not require blood thinners, but generally do not last as long as mechanical valves.
MDCA cardiologists perform these procedures in a full catheterization laboratory using state-of-the-art heart catheter equipment. They are experienced in assessing the full spectrum of heart conditions, and use cardiac catheterization as an important tool to assess a patient's overall heart health and to direct his or her treatment To make an appointment with an MDCA cardiologist experienced with percutaneous balloon valvuloplasty, please call 713-441-1100 (Pearland patients, please call 713-441-9909).