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Mitral valve regurgitation treatment options

“Mitral valve regurgitation means that your mitral valve is leaking,” says Federico Milla, M.D., a cardiac surgeon at the Marcus Heart Valve Center at Piedmont Heart Institute.

Ninety percent of mitral valve regurgitation cases are chronic. The other 10 percent are acute onset, likely related to a heart attack or an infection of the valve.

Because most cases are chronic, many patients with mitral valve regurgitation may not even realize they have the disease. A doctor may hear a heart murmur during a check-up and that may be the first sign something is wrong, says Dr. Milla.

Chronic mitral valve regurgitation

There are few treatment options for mitral valve regurgitation.

“This is a structural, mechanical problem with the heart,” he explains. “Medicines can do very little to reverse that process.”

Medications may help the patient feel better and breathe easier after congestive heart failure, but only surgery can correct mitral valve regurgitation.

If left untreated, this condition can lead to heart failure or significant heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias). 

Repair vs. Replacement

“In general, we try to repair the mitral valve as opposed to replacing the mitral valve,” explains Dr. Milla. 

The repair rate of a valve is dependent on the surgeon’s level of experience with mitral valve repair.

“The less experienced they are, the percentage of valves they’ll be able to repair will be less,” says Dr. Milla. “At Piedmont, we have several surgeons who have been in this field for more than 20 years. With the volume of surgery we do here, the staff that treats the patients in the ICU is very experienced in managing patients.” 

Life expectancy with valve repair

Patients who go into surgery with their heart function intact – meaning the heart is still strong and isn’t enlarged – can expect to return to a normal life expectancy comparable to someone their age. 

“The goal is to try to get to surgery before your heart function deteriorates and before your heart enlarges to an abnormal size,” says Dr. Milla. “We know once you reach those targets, your life expectancy is not the same as somebody your own age in the general population.”

The Marcus Heart Valve Center aims to help physicians understand when a patient requires surgery, as well as educate patients about preventing complications post-surgery and maintaining a normal life expectancy.

Hear the story of a mother-of-the-bride who successfully underwent mitral valve repair surgery just weeks before her daughter’s wedding. Click here

For more information on mitral valve regurgitation or surgery to treat it, visit the Marcus Heart Valve Center.

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