What Will You See in the Cath Lab? Like angiogram tests and angioplasty procedures, balloon valvuloplasty procedures are performed in special hospital rooms called cardiac cath labs. In this video, Dr. John P. Reilly gives you a guided tour of the cath lab, pointing out the equipment you’ll see and explaining what it’s for. (Video provided courtesy of Dr. Reilly)
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Valvuloplasty is a non-surgical procedure that can be used to open a heart valve that has narrowed. Valvuloplasty can be used on the mitral, aortic, or pulmonic valve.
Valvuloplasty is very similar to angioplasty, which is used to open blocked blood vessels. The procedure is performed in a cardiac catheterization lab using X-ray and a dye that is injected into the blood stream. A catheter is inserted into the leg and passed through the blood stream up to the heart where pressure measurements are taken. A balloon is quickly inflated and deflated within the valve as many as two to three times to stretch open the valve.
Valvuloplasty or Surgery?
For patients with narrowed mitral valves, balloon valvuloplasty is an excellent treatment option. The beneficial results are typically long lasting. The recovery from valvuloplasty is usually easy, with patients often leaving the hospital the next day. Some narrowed mitral valves are too calcified to be treated with valvuloplasty. Your cardiologist will perform and echocardiogram to determine if you are eligible.
While valvuloplasty is less risky than open-heart surgery, when aortic valves are opened using this approach, they almost always re-narrow within six months to two years. There is also a small chance that the balloon will not improve the opening of the valve and you may still need surgery to replace the valve. Techniques to make valvuloplasty more effective continue to be developed.
Aortic valvuloplasty may be performed on patients with other problems, such as infections or bleeding, and who need to be stabilized before they can have other procedures. Or they may have valvuloplasty to allow them to recover from these short-term problems until they can undergo definitive, surgical replacement of their valve. For patients who will never be strong enough to undergo surgical aortic valve replacement, valvuloplasty may be the best option to treat the valve, which may be the case for some older patients. Some patients see their doctor every six months to a year for aortic valvuloplasty. The risk of complications increases each time valvuloplasty is performed, but for many it is the best option for a longer life.
There is a small risk of stroke, heart attack, and irregular heart rhythm with valvuloplasty. The dye used in the procedure may also cause an allergic reaction or kidney problems.
Discuss Valvuloplasty with Your Doctor
You doctor can help you weigh the pros and cons of valvuloplasty as well as other treatment options. Click here for information on treating valve disease.