Minimally invasive heart valve repair procedures offer an important treatment option to repair a failing valve for patients who are not eligible for open heart surgery. If you or your loved one's doctor notices increasing symptoms that point to heart valve disease, such as shortness of breath and chest pain, it is important to weigh your options and understand how they can impact your health. The right information can make you more comfortable with your choice for valve repair, so use this guide to have a productive discussion with your doctor about which treatment option is best for you. Why a Heart Valve Repair May Be Necessary The four valves of your heart (aortic, pulmonary, tricuspid and mitral) keep blood moving in the correct direction from one chamber to another. When the valves don't function properly, blood flow is disrupted, which can cause long-term damage. In the case of the mitral valve, for example, the leaflets may not close entirely, allowing backflow of blood. This can result in a dangerous condition called mitral regurgitation (MR) — a leaky heart valve — and uncomfortable symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath and lightheadedness. Left untreated, heart valve disease such as MR may lead to heart failure, which can be deadly. Your doctor will likely consider a valve repair or replacement to avoid the valve's failure. Until recently, MR treatments have been limited to medications — which typically help with symptoms and may not address the underlying valve issue — and open-heart surgery, which is not a viable option for some patients because of advanced age or the presence of one or more additional diseases. If you or your loved one doesn't need a total valve replacement or isn't a candidate for open-heart repair surgery, a minimally invasive valve repair procedure, called transcatheter valve repair, is available. It allows your doctor to repair the leaky mitral valve through a small incision in the leg, which is then used to guide a thin tube through a vein to reach your heart. Discussing Transcatheter Valve Repair with Your Doctor Before scheduling your procedure, make sure you have a clear understanding of what you can expect including: Preparation, such as adjusting routine medications, fasting and arranging your hospital stay and ride home. How to maximize your recovery, including diet adjustments and activity limitations. How to reduce your pain and make daily tasks easier while you heal. What to expect at follow up, including recovery time and other side effects of the procedure. Who you should contact with any questions and phone numbers where you can reach them. Financial costs, including those associated with the procedure, anesthesia, home care, follow-up office visits, insurance coverage and other expenses. Preparing for Your Procedure Before the procedure, your doctor will do a full physical and blood work, check your vital signs and review your current medications to make sure you are healthy enough for your repair procedure. Ask your doctor about any risks associated with the procedure or your condition. Make sure you understand if you need to stop eating or taking medications at a specific time before the procedure, as well. During the Procedure Because minimally invasive treatments eliminate the need for open-heart surgery or stopping the heart, your doctor only needs to make a small incision in the leg or groin to insert a catheter into a vein to reach the heart. The cardiologist then repairs the leak to allow better functionality. For MR, your doctor may use MitraClip®, a clinically proven and minimally invasive treatment to repair a leaky mitral valve in people who are not eligible for open heart surgery. The procedure takes up to three hours and requires general anesthesia. Since it's minimally invasive, recovery time is reduced to an average hospital stay of two days. After the Repair After the valve is repaired, your doctor will order testing and imaging to ensure success. You can generally resume a normal diet as soon as the next day. Let your nurses know if you have any unusual discomfort or pain. You should also expect to take it easy for several days after you leave the hospital. Watch for signs of infection at the insertion site, like redness and warmth, increased pain or unusual drainage. Be sure to follow specific recovery instructions from your doctor. If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to call your doctor to clarify. Advancing Minimally Invasive Technology for Heart Valve Diseases In addition to MR, Abbott is also innovating minimally invasive treatment for several other conditions, including for people with tricuspid valve regurgitation. The company is studying the use of a similar clip-based technology, to treat patients with tricuspid regurgitation. A transcatheter clip-based tricuspid repair system* would treat tricuspid valves in need of repair. Abbott is also studying a minimally invasive solution for total valve replacement of the mitral valve in the Tendyne trial**, because the need for a valve replacement is more common in older adults who are often at risk or not candidates for surgery. Taking Charge of Your Own Heart Health If you or your loved one is in need of a heart valve repair procedure, speak with your cardiologist about your options. Feeling empowered about all your options is key to your recovery, so be sure to get involved in decisions about your heart health.