How do heart valves work?
Blood passes through a valve before leaving each chamber of the heart. There are four
valves within your heart. The heart valves make sure blood flows in only one
direction through your heart.
The mitral valve is located between the left upper and lower chambers of the heart. It has two leaflets that open and close similar to a double door.
Stenosis means narrowing of an opening, such as a heart valve. Stenosis of the mitral valve limits the forward flow of blood from the left atrium to the left ventricle. This may cause a back-up of blood and fluid in the lungs.
What is Balloon Valvuloplasty?
A balloon valvuloplasty is a minimally invasive procedure to open narrowed down heart
valves. The heart valves can get narrowed due to a variety of causes. The narrowing
down of heart valves is called stenosis.
The procedure involves the introduction of a small inflatable balloon attached to the end of a catheter to the area of stenosis. Once the balloon reaches the stenosed part of the valve, it is inflated to increase the size.
Balloon valvuloplasty is commonly done to correct the stenosis of aortic, pulmonary and mitral valves.
Balloon valvuloplasty is a very safe and effective remedy for correction of congenital or acquired stenosis in children. In a vast majority of cases the condition can be permanently cured by the procedure.
In adults, balloon valvuloplasty is an excellent alternative to valve replacement surgery. The procedure is done in those who do not get any relief from medical treatments prescribed for valve defects. By undergoing balloon valvotomy they are also spared the rigors of an open-heart surgery.
Other names for balloon valvotomy are balloon valvulotomy, balloon valvuloplasty, balloon valvoplasty, percutaneous balloon valvuloplasty etc. Balloon valvotomy should not be confused with surgical valvotomy. Balloon valvotomy is a minimally invasive procedure while surgical valvotomy is an open-heart surgical procedure.
How does Balloon Valvuloplasty work?
Balloon valvuloplasty also called balloon valvotomy or balloon valvulotomy is a
minimally invasive procedure to treat heart valves that have narrowed down. The
narrowing of heart valves is termed as stenosis.
Stenosis can affect any of the four valves of the heart namely the pulmonary, mitral, aortic and the tricuspid valves. Stenosis can be congenital or present at birth or acquired. Acquired causes of stenosis include rheumatic heart disease, calcification of valves etc. In valve stenosis, either the heart valves loses their elasticity, or the leaflets of the valves are placed very close to each other. Either way, the valves fail to function properly, resulting in leakage or backflow of blood while they are closed. This creates various complications in the proper pumping of blood, by the heart.
Balloon valvuloplasty or valvotomy aims to correct the stenosis of valves through a minimally invasive procedure. In minimally invasive procedures there is very little surgical trauma and hence post-operative complications are also comparatively less. In balloon valvuloplasty, a catheter with an inflatable balloon is introduced into an artery in the groin or arm. The catheter is then threaded through the artery to reach the affected valve. Once the valve is reached, the balloon attached to the tip of the catheter is inflated. This opens the leaflets of the valve. as well as widens its diameter. The balloon is then deflated and inflated again. This process is repeated till the desired results are achieved. The catheter along with the balloon is then withdrawn and the incision in the groin or arm is sutured. This completes the procedure and the patient will be shifted to the recovery room for monitoring.
The duration of the entire procedure is between three to four hours. The person undergoing the treatment will have to be in the hospital for about three to four days. Being a minimally invasive procedure there will only be a small wound which will heal fast. Normal activities may be resumed within a week after the procedure. Medications like blood thinners may be prescribed to prevent the formation of any clots. Other instructions prescribed by the doctor should be followed.
Balloon valvuloplasty is a procedure with a high degree of success. Almost 90 to 95 % of those who undergo the procedure derive immediate benefits. There will be a drastic relief in the symptoms as well as an improvement in the associated complications of valve stenosis.