Certain heart defects and medical conditions can cause a narrowing in the heart’s valves, impeding proper blood flow and causing a number of dangerous and uncomfortable symptoms. Balloon valvuloplasty (orpercutaneous balloon valvuloplasty) is a minimally invasive procedure used to expand the space within the valves, allowing for improved blood flow and hopefully preventing the need for more invasive open-heart surgery procedures.
The balloon valvuloplasty procedure is an effective treatment for narrowed heart valves (stenosis).
There are two types of valve stenosis commonly treated with this procedure.
- Mitral Valve Stenosis – The mitral valve is located on the left side of the heart and controls blood flow between the left atrium going into the left ventricle. This condition is usually caused by a congenital heart defect, but it can also result as a complication of rheumatic fever or strep throat. Symptoms include fatigue, trouble breathing, swelling in the lower extremities, irregular heartbeats and palpitations, and respiratory problems (including coughing).
- Pulmonary Valve Stenosis – The pulmonary valve controls the exit of blood from the right ventricle and its entry into the pulmonary artery. Though mild cases often present with no symptoms, many patients experience heart murmur (an abnormal sound caused by improper blood flow), chest pain, shortness of breath, and fainting. Like mitral valve stenosis, it is usually a congenital heart defect present from birth. It can also be caused by rheumatic fever or strep throat.
The balloon valvuloplasty procedure is usually performed with no general anesthesia – only a mild sedative will be used to keep the patient relaxed and comfortable. A cardiologist will insert a catheter containing a small, deflated balloon into a vein in the groin area, then thread the guide wire up to the heart. Once the balloon is positioned in the affected vein, it will be inflated. This stretches the valve to increase the size of the opening and allow for improved blood flow.
Most patients spend a very brief time in the hospital under monitoring following the procedure, and they can usually return to their normal routine shortly after they are discharged. Balloon valvuloplasty allows patients to put off riskier and more invasive open-heart surgery procedures used to treat valve problems, like valve replacement.