A new study finds that earlier surgical intervention, as opposed to “watchful waiting,” can benefit patients with leaky heart valves.
Degenerative mitral valve disease is a condition that occurs as people grow older. Also known as a “leaky” mitral valve, this happens when the leaflets of the mitral valve deteriorate and do not close tightly anymore.
The condition results in the backward flow of blood, which causes the heart to work too hard. It is irreversible and can lead to heart failure. There has long been debate among cardiologists over the value of “watchful waiting” versus early surgical repair of leaky mitral valves that are not causing symptoms.
Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio reviewed 5,902 records of patients who underwent surgical mitral valve repair during the 25 years from 1985 to 2011.
The researchers found that over the years surgical repair techniques had improved, resulting in shorter hospital stays and fewer complications. The improvements in technique resulted in fewer patients needing large chest incisions, and also fewer suffering complications following the procedure such as atrial fibrillation (irregular, often rapid heart rate) or heart failure.
In particular, they found that patients who were treated in the latter five years of the study had a two-day shorter hospital stay on average and fewer patients adverse outcomes.
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