Treatments to prevent permanent damage to your heart from mitral valve stenosis include medications and invasive procedures.
Invasive treatment for mitral valve stenosis isn't always needed right away. If tests reveal that you have mild to moderate mitral valve stenosis and you have no symptoms, there's generally no need for immediate valve repair or replacement. Instead, your doctor will schedule checkups to carefully monitor the valve so that surgery can be done if your condition becomes more severe. Some people never need anything done to the mitral valve because they never develop severe mitral valve stenosis.
No medications can correct a defect in the mitral valve. However, certain drugs can reduce symptoms by easing your heart's workload and regulating your heart's rhythm.
For example, your doctor may prescribe:
- Diuretics. These drugs can reduce fluid accumulation in your lungs or elsewhere.
- Blood thinners (anticoagulants). These medications help to prevent blood clots from forming.
- Beta blockers or calcium channel blockers. These medications may be used to slow your heart rate and allow your heart to fill more effectively.
- Anti-arrhythmic medications. These medications may be used to treat atrial fibrillation or other rhythm disturbances associated with mitral valve stenosis.
You may need valve repair or replacement to treat mitral valve stenosis. Both surgical and nonsurgical options are available.
Repair with balloon valvuloplasty (valvotomy)
This nonsurgical procedure uses a soft, thin tube (catheter) tipped with a balloon. A doctor guides the catheter through a blood vessel in your arm or groin to your heart and into your narrowed mitral valve. Once in position, a balloon at the tip of the catheter is inflated. The balloon pushes open the mitral valve and stretches the valve opening, improving blood flow. The balloon is then deflated and the catheter with balloon is guided back out of your body. Balloon valvuloplasty can relieve mitral valve stenosis and its symptoms. But it may not be appropriate if the valve is both tight (stenotic) and leaky (regurgitant) or if your valve is too heavily calcified. It's also not performed if there's a blood clot in a chamber of your heart, because of the risk of dislodging it. You may need the procedure repeated.
Mitral valve surgery
If there is more than mild leakage (regurgitation) of your valve or if you have other valve problems in addition to mitral stenosis, surgery may be a better option than balloon valvuloplasty. Surgical options include:
- Valvuloplasty. Using traditional surgical tools, a cardiac surgeon may make repairs such as separating fused valve leaflets and removing obstructions on or near the mitral valve. This helps clear the valve passageway. You may need the procedure repeated if you develop mitral valve stenosis again in the years following surgery.
- Mitral valve replacement. Most people with mitral valve stenosis who need surgery will have mitral valve replacement. Your surgeon removes the narrowed mitral valve and replaces it with a mechanical valve or a tissue valve. Mechanical valves, made from metal, are durable, but they carry the risk of blood clots forming on or near the valve. If you receive a mechanical mitral valve, you'll need to take an anticoagulant medication, such as warfarin (Coumadin), for life to prevent blood clots. Tissue valves which may come from a pig, cow or human cadaver donor often eventually need to be replaced. Your doctor can discuss the risks and benefits of each type of heart valve with you.
You may continue to be at risk of arrhythmias even after successful surgery for mitral valve stenosis. You may need to take medications to lower that risk or control your heart rate.
In some cases your surgeon may perform additional surgery at the time of your operation to try to keep your heart in normal rhythm, such as the maze procedure. This involves making a series of surgical incisions in the upper half of your heart (atria). These heal into carefully placed scars in the atria that form boundaries that force electrical impulses in your heart to travel properly to cause the heart to beat efficiently.