What is a Balloon Valvuloplasty?
Balloon valvuloplasty is a procedure performed in the cardiac catheterization laboratory to treat stenotic or narrowed heart valves. Normal valves (aortic, mitral, tricuspid and pulmonic) comprise two or three pliable tissue leaflets which open and close to modulate blood flow through the heart. Valves may become narrowed because of age-related degeneration, rheumatic disease, or because of genetic abnormalities. When narrowing occurs, this places strain on the heart, which may cause symptoms such as shortness of breath or leg swelling.
Why do valvuloplasty?
The goal of valvuloplasty is to improve blood flow through the valve by separating points of fusion of the valve leaflets to one another, which improves valve opening and unloads the heart and ultimately improves symptoms. Valvuloplasty is usually not a permanent solution for valve stenosis, but may be the preferred treatment for certain forms of valve disease or for patients who are not candidates for valve replacement. Beaumont’s heart team will determine which procedure will be best for you after a thorough evaluation.
How is it done?
In balloon valvuloplasty, catheters are usually inserted via the femoral artery and femoral vein, which are used as the pathways to the heart. Pressures are measured in the heart chambers to confirm the degree of narrowing. A balloon catheter is advanced into the heart and guided to the narrowed valve. The balloon on the catheter is inflated and when it expands it opens the valve and separates the leaflets. Sometimes, a temporary pacemaker is used to make the heart beat so rapidly that it “stands still” for a few seconds while the balloon is inflated. The procedure is deemed successful when the pressure difference across the valve is reduced by an acceptable degree, without causing the valve to become too leaky. Sometimes multiple inflations of the balloon or larger balloon sizes are required to adequately open the valve. Once an acceptable result is achieved, the balloon and catheters are removed from the body. The femoral artery and femoral vein may be sutured closed or compressed manually to stop bleeding from the groin at the end of the procedure. No prosthetic or artificial material is left within the heart.