Mitral Valve Surgery

This page will give you information about mitral valve surgery. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is mitral valve disease?

The mitral valve controls the flow of blood into the main pumping chamber (left ventricle) of the heart (see figure 1). Mitral valve disease is where the valve does not open properly or is narrowed, or does not close properly. This causes pressure on the heart and lungs, causing symptoms of palpitations, breathlessness and dizziness.


Mitral Valve Diagram

Figure 1: A cross view of the heart, showing the mitral valve.


What are the benefits of surgery?

The main benefits of surgery are to relieve breathlessness and chest pain and improve energy levels. You should live longer with surgery.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Drug treatments such as diuretics, ACE-inhibitors and digoxin are the main alternatives to surgery.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes between three and four hours. 

Your surgeon will make a cut down the front of your chest, through the breastbone. Sometimes your surgeon may perform the operation through a small cut on the right side of your chest. 

You will be connected to a heart-lung machine while your surgeon replaces or repairs the valve.

What complications can happen?

General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Unsightly scarring
  • Blood clots

Specific complications

  • Stroke
  • Infection in the surgical site (wound)
  • Heart attack
  • Death

How soon will I recover?

After the operation you will be transferred to the cardiac intensive-care unit or high-dependency unit, usually for 24 hours, and then to the ward.You should be able to go home after seven to ten days. 

The healthcare team will tell you when you can return to normal activities.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice. 

Most people make a good recovery, with no more breathlessness or chest pain. You may have more energy after you recover.


Mitral valve disease can cause pain, shortness of breath and eventually death. Mitral valve surgery can relieve your pain, improve your energy levels and may help you to live longer.


Author: Mr Edward Black MBBS FRCS (CTh)

Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © 2011 Nucleus Medical Art. All rights reserved.

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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