For many patients, minimally invasive heart valve repair offers a beneficial alternative to traditional open-heart surgery. At Memorial Hermann Health System, our affiliated specialists diagnose, treat, and manage a wide range of heart valve conditions. Using a patient-centered, comprehensive approach, we strive to deliver the best possible outcomes and patient experience.

If you have valvular heart disease, a minimally invasive valve repair procedure may relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Our goal is to accurately diagnose the source of your heart valve dysfunction and repair the damage so you can get back to your daily activities as quickly as possible.

What Is Minimally Invasive Heart Valve Repair?

In minimally invasive valve-repair surgery, also called less invasive valve surgery (LIV), the surgeon makes a small incision in your chest that allows them to see the valve and repair the damage. This is different from open-heart surgery, where you would need a large incision through your chest and breastbone. Most patients recover much more quickly and experience fewer complications with minimally invasive surgery.

The heart has four valves: mitral valve, tricuspid valve, pulmonary valve, and aortic valve. The leaflets on the valves open and close during each heartbeat, which makes the blood flow in the correct direction. If the valves do not open and close efficiently, the flow of blood may be disrupted. Minimally invasive valve repair corrects the damage to the affected valve to restore cardiovascular health.

Types of Minimally Invasive Heart Valve Repair

Common types of heart valve repair include minimally invasive aortic surgery and minimally invasive mitral valve surgery. Heart valve repair can be performed in different ways, depending on your specific condition. Your physician will evaluate your valvular disease and assess the amount of damage to determine which procedure will best address your needs. All types of minimally invasive heart valve repair involve a surgeon accessing your heart through small incisions in between your rib bones.

There are two main types of minimally invasive heart-repair surgical procedures:

Thoracoscopic Surgery

The surgeon will make a small incision (or incisions) in your chest and insert a thin camera called a thoracoscope. This allows the surgeon to clearly see the heart valve. Long, thin instruments are used to repair the valve damage.

Robot-assisted Surgery

The surgeon will make a small incision (or incisions) in your chest. Then, they control robotic arms to accurately perform the valve repair. Clear images of your heart are available on a computer screen that the surgeon uses while guiding the robotic arms.

If your heart valve damage cannot be effectively repaired, your surgeon may recommend replacing heart valve with an artificial valve. It is not uncommon for a damaged aortic valve to need complete replacement. The surgeons affiliated with Memorial Hermann are highly experienced in advanced valve replacement. There are two types of replacement heart valves:

Biological Tissue Valve

This type of valve is made from the heart tissue of cows or pigs. Biological valves will eventually need to be replaced during your lifetime.

Mechanical Valve

This artificial device is made of materials like carbon or titanium. Mechanical valves are durable and usually last for the patient’s entire life. You will need to take blood thinners, indefinitely, to prevent blood clots.

Benefits of Minimally Invasive Heart Valve Repair

Advantages of minimally invasive valve repair include:

  • Reduced trauma from surgery
  • Less blood loss
  • Reduced chance of infection
  • Faster recovery

Minimally invasive procedures are appropriate for many patients, but not everyone is a good candidate for this type of surgery. Some patients will need to undergo open-heart surgery instead.

What to Expect During the Procedure

The procedure usually takes several hours.

You will receive general anesthesia so that you will not feel any pain or remember anything from your surgery.

During the surgery, you will be connected to a heart-lung bypass machine. This same machine is used in open-heart surgery. The bypass machine functions as your heart and lungs while you are asleep and maintains your blood flow.

The surgeon will make a small incision (or incisions) and may perform any of these repair functions:

  • Close any holes in the valve
  • Remove any excess tissue so the valve can close completely
  • Reconnect valve leaflets that have separated
  • Separate valve leaflets that have fused together
  • Repair chords that control the valve leaflets

Risks and Side Effects

Like all surgical procedures, minimally invasive heart valve repair has risks. Some possible complications include:

  • Bleeding
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

After the Procedure

Many patients spend some time in the intensive care unit (ICU) after surgery and then move to a regular hospital room. It is not unusual to spend about a week in the hospital.

Your doctor will work with you to develop a specific recovery plan and determine when you can safely resume your daily activities. You will be instructed to increase your level of activity slowly and gradually, as tolerated.

Once you have recovered, it is important to make healthy lifestyle choices like eating healthy foods, getting regular exercise, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco. It is also essential to schedule regular follow-up appointments with your doctor to monitor and manage your condition. 

Some patients will be advised to attend cardiac rehabilitation. This is an exercise program to assist with your recovery and overall health after surgery.

Scheduling an Appointment

If you have valvular heart disease, a minimally invasive repair surgery may be appropriate. The affiliated physicians at Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular can evaluate your condition and recommend a treatment plan to meet your specific health needs so you can get back to the life you enjoy.

To learn more about minimally invasive heart valve repair, visit Find a Doctor to schedule an appointment.

Contact Us

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