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Advanced Mitral Valve Repair - Norma's Story

Getting married in your 80's might seem crazy, but Norma and Tom had reason to celebrate. When her mitral valve became severely damaged, daily life was difficult. Until Penn offered Norma a minimally invasive procedure that changed everything.

The Penn Medicine Advantage

As one of the largest heart valve programs in the mid-Atlantic, Penn Medicine treats every heart valve condition, from routine to highly complex. When our experts treat your valve disease, you can count on:

  • Experienced leaders in catheter-based intervention: Penn was the first in the region to offer advanced nonsurgical treatment options, including MitraClip™ therapy and transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). Today, we are one of top five TAVR programs in the country.
  • Renowned surgical skills: Our cardiac surgeons perform complex valve repair and replacement when other regional hospitals cannot. For complex mitral valve conditions, our repair rate is near 100 percent, far exceeding the national average. U.S. News & World Report has recognized our success in aortic valve surgery with a high performing rating.
  • Accessible innovation: Penn is an international leader in developing new therapies for heart valve repair and replacement. Participation in our clinical trials gives patients access to new treatments not available elsewhere in the region.
  • Aortic disease expertise: Experts at the Penn Aortic Center treat both common and complex aortic disease. Our team of aortic specialists includes surgeons, cardiologists, imaging experts and geneticists.
  • Complete care for bicuspid aortic valve disease (BAVD): Penn's Center for Bicuspid Aortic Valve Diseases is the only program in the region providing comprehensive care for patients with BAVD and associated aortic aneurysm disease.
  • Superior safety standards: To lower the risk of stroke associated with TAVR, Penn was the first in the region to evaluate and adopt a specialized stroke prevention system.

What is Valve Disease?

Your heart has four valves: the aortic, mitral, tricuspid and pulmonary valves. They work to pump blood in the right direction through and out of the heart. Each valve has flaps (also called cusps or leaflets) that open and close to control blood flow.

If you have heart valve disease, the flaps on one or more of these valves do not function correctly. Causes of heart valve disease include congenital heart conditions (present at birth), rheumatic fever, infection and age.

There are two common ways that a heart valve can fail:

  • Stenosis: Valve stenosis means the flaps are stiff or thickened. In some cases, they may be fused together. Stenosis causes your valve to narrow, limiting the flow of blood.
  • Regurgitation: Also known as leaky valve or valve insufficiency, regurgitation happens when your valve flaps do not close securely. Blood may leak backward through the valve. Your heart must pump harder to push blood in the right direction.

At Penn, we manage and treat all heart valve disease, including:

  • Aortic valve conditions: If you have been diagnosed with aortic valve regurgitation, aortic valve stenosis or BAVD, our specialty-trained aortic valve team provides disease management and advanced treatment options.
  • Mitral valve conditions: Our cardiac team treats mitral valve prolapse, mitral valve regurgitation and mitral valve stenosis. We are experts in complex mitral valve repair and offer both minimally invasive surgery and catheter-based treatment options for mitral valve disease.
  • Pulmonary valve conditions: Pulmonary valve stenosis is a congenital condition that is usually first treated in childhood, but may require additional treatment as an adult. At Penn's Adult Congenital Heart Center, we monitor your condition, and our cardiac team repairs or replaces your pulmonary valve when necessary.
  • Tricuspid valve conditions: While tricuspid stenosis is a congenital condition diagnosed and treated in childhood, tricuspid valve regurgitation can occur in adults. Penn experts surgically repair or replace tricuspid valves and are involved in innovative catheter-based trials to replace the valve.

Treating Heart Valves at Penn

Our surgeons and cardiologists treat heart valve disease with both surgical and nonsurgical procedures. Whenever possible, we repair your existing valve. If your valve needs to be replaced, our multidisciplinary team works with you to select the best option.

Depending on your unique diagnosis, age and health, Penn's heart valve treatment options include:

  • Open-heart surgery: During open-heart surgery, our cardiac surgeons access your heart through an incision in your chest, called a sternotomy. A heart-lung bypass machine keeps blood pumping to your body while our surgeons repair or replace your valve.
  • Minimally invasive surgery: Whenever possible, our cardiac surgeons repair and replace heart valves using minimally invasive and robotic surgery. These procedures reduce recovery time and post-surgical pain while getting you quickly back to your daily life.
  • Catheter-based procedures: Our interventional cardiologists lead the way in catheter-based procedures, which use tiny tubes inserted through a blood vessel to reach your heart. This approach allows us to repair or replace your valve when surgery is not an ideal option.

In This Section

Center for Bicuspid Aortic Valve Diseases

The Center for Bicuspid Aortic Valve Diseases offers innovative treatments and techniques as well as a personalized care plan for patients with bicuspid aortic valve disease.

Treatments and Procedures

Penn Medicine treats heart valve disease with both minimally invasive surgery and catheter-based intervention. Our surgeons and cardiologists are at the forefront of innovative procedures for heart valve repair and replacement.

Treatment Team

Heart surgeons and cardiologists at Penn Medicine are leaders in the Philadelphia region for the treatment of heart valve disease.

Patient Stories

With thousands of heart valve patients treated at Penn, these select few were asked to share their experience.

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