Valvuloplasty, commonly known as balloon valvotomy, is a minimally invasive procedure that is performed to repair narrowed or stenotic heart valves in order to restore the normal flow of blood in the body.Valvuloplasty is a gold standard treatment option recommended by doctors worldwide. It involves the use of a narrow, flexible tube, known as a catheter, fitted with a balloon on one of its ends.
Why is the procedure performed?
A human heart has 4 valves – mitral valve, tricuspid valve, aortic valve and pulmonary valve. The first two control the flow of blood from the atrium to the ventricles, whereas the remaining two control the flow of blood from the ventricles to the rest of the body. If any of these valves are damaged or blocked, it can hinder the normal blood circulation and even lead to the backward flow of blood. The condition needs proper and immediate medical intervention or else it can lead to irreversible damage.
Valvuloplasty is recommended in case of severe stenosis which may be symptomatic or asymptomatic. However, before this is done, the doctor precisely evaluates your overall health to make sure that you are eligible for the procedure.
Valvuloplasty helps to treat aortic stenosis in infants and small children as well as adults who are not healthy enough for open-heart surgery. It can also be recommended for treating stenotic tricuspid and pulmonary valves.
How to get ready for the procedure?
Patients recommended to undergo valvuloplasty need to prepare themselves for the procedure both physically as well as mentally. You doctor may suggest some tests to assess and evaluate your condition. These include:
- Chest X-rays
Patients who are diabetic, have a pacemaker or are on blood-thinning medication need to inform the doctors about the same. You are not allowed to eat or drink anything for at least 12 hours prior to the surgery.
How is the procedure performed?
Valvuloplasty isusually performed under the influenceof local anaesthesia using cardiac catheterization technique. It involves the use of a catheter which is inserted into one of the major blood vesselseither through the groin or via tiny incisions on the patient’s arm, leg or side of his chest. After the catheter has been introduced inside the body successfully, it is guided towards the affected heart valve using special imaging techniques. Once the catheter is in the right position, the balloon is inflated to open the valve and separate the fused leaflets. The doctors may keep on inflating and deflating the balloon till they feel that the problem has been treated effectively and once they are sure, the balloon is deflated and removed along with the catheter. The whole procedure takes about an hour.
Treating the damaged valve does not mean that the problem cannot reoccur in future. This, however, can be easily avoided by following the guidelines set by the doctor. These include:
- Avoid indulging in rigorous physical activities for the first few weeks following the surgery.
- Visit your doctor for regular follow-ups
- Avoid smoking, both active and passive
- Take all the prescribed medication religiously
- In case of any discomfort, contact your doctor immediately.
What are the benefits of valvuloplasty?
The various benefits of valvuloplasty include the following:
- Less scarring due to smaller incisions
- Reduced blood loss
- Alleviated risks of infection
- Shorter convalescence
- Shorter procedural period
What are the various risks associated with balloon valvuloplasty?
Just like any other medical procedure, valvuloplasty, too, is assisted by some potential risks which should not be overlooked. These include:
- Bleeding or infection at the site of catheter insertion
- Clot formation
- Vascular damage
- Arrhythmia and stroke
It is, however, pertinent to note that the benefits of the surgery usually outnumber the risks.