If the mitral valve becomes diseased or damaged, it may be surgically repaired to restore function. Mitral valves also may be replaced with an artificial or natural valve. However, research has shown that there are many advantages of surgically repairing, rather than replacing, a mitral valve. In certain cases, however, the valve may be so seriously damaged that valve replacement is recommended. 

Your surgeon will discuss both treatment options with you. The decision regarding whether to have valve repair or replacement depends on a number of factors, including your age, overall health, cause of valve damage and expected benefits of surgery.

Surgical Repair

An open mitral valve repair is a heart procedure performed by a cardiac surgeon, a doctor who specializes in the treatment of heart conditions. 

The two most common surgical mitral valve repairs include: 

  • Ring Annuloplasty — The annulus, or ring-like part of the valve, is tightened by placing a flexible ring of metal, cloth or tissue around the damaged valve.
  • Valve Repair — The damaged leaflets, chordae, and/or papillary muscles of the valve are surgically reconstructed.

UCSF Medical Center was ranked as one of the best hospitals for Cardiology and Heart Surgery in the latest U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals Survey.  

Surgically repairing, rather than replacing a valve spares the surrounding structures that attach the valve to the heart, which are important for maintaining the heart's shape and function. Studies have shown that removing those structures during valve replacement may not affect heart function immediately, but 10 years after surgery, the heart is much weaker. 

In addition, inserting artificial valves into the heart may cause infections or complications, such as blood clotting. Patients who have valve repair, rather than valve replacement, do not need to take the blood thinner Coumadin, and also have a quicker recovery time, due in part to less invasive surgical techniques.