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The Franciscan St. Francis Heart Center and Franciscan St. Francis Heart Valve Center are world-renowned leaders in the treatment of complex cardiovascular issues, using state-of-the-art diagnostics and procedures to provide appropriate, individualized patient care. One of these procedures is valve repair surgery.

Franciscan St. Francis Heart Valve surgeons strongly advocate valve repair over valve replacement. Valve repair surgery preserves your own heart valve, avoiding the long-term issues related to valve replacement. The expertise of the Valve Center team has provided outstanding results. Since the Valve Center was established, 98 percent of all leaking mitral valves have been repaired, rather than replaced. Aortic valves that are leaking but have adequate leaflets are spared as well. Because the function of the patient’s own valve has been restored, concerns about long-term anticoagulation (blood thinning) or deterioration of biologic valves (taken from animals) are avoided.

What is valve repair surgery?
Surgeons at the St. Francis Heart Valve Center use a number of different valve repair procedures, depending on the needs of the patient.

  • Commissurotomy: Fused valve leaflets are separated to widen the valve opening.
  • Decalcification: Calcium deposits are removed to allow the leaflets to be more flexible and close properly.
  • Reshape leaflets: If one of the leaflets is floppy, a segment may be cut out and the leaflet sewn back together, allowing the valve to close more tightly.
  • Chordal transfer: If the anterior leaflet of the mitral valve has prolapse (floppy; lacking support), the chordae are transferred from the posterior leaflet to the anterior leaflet. Then, the posterior leaflet is repaired by quadrangular resection.
  • Annulus support: If the valve annulus (the ring of tissue supporting the valve) is too wide, it may be reshaped or tightened by sewing a ring structure around the annulus. The ring may be made of tissue or synthetic material, including ECM.
  • Patched leaflets: The surgeon may use tissue patches to repair any leaflets with tears or holes.

What are the risks of valve repair surgery?
Your surgeon will review in detail the risks and benefits of surgery. In general, the risks of all heart operations, including valve operations, are bleeding, infection, stroke and heart dysfunction. The degree of risk depends on your individual pre-existing medical risks and age, which will be discussed in detail with you by the surgeon prior to surgery.

The decision to prescribe medical treatment or proceed with surgical repair or replacement is based on the type of heart valve disease, the severity of damage, the patient’s age and medical history.