Mitral Valve Repair and Treatment

Mitral Valve Treatment at the University of Michigan

The mitral valve specialists at the University of Michigan Health Frankel Cardiovascular Center have successfully repaired thousands of mitral valves. Our high volume translates to extensive experience in the operating room and better outcomes for our patients.

The Frankel Cardiovascular Center is home to one of the largest mitral valve practices in the country focused on mitral valve repair, which has better long-term outcomes than mitral valve replacement, including better long-term survival rates, better preservation of heart function and lower risk of complications.

The average number of isolated mitral valve repair surgeries per surgeon in the U.S. is 5 per year. That’s approximately 150 surgeries per career. We do more than 200 mitral valve repairs per year. In fact, our director alone has performed more than 4,000 mitral valve surgeries to date. And, in the U.S., while the degenerative mitral valve repair rate is 41 percent, our repair rate is more than 95 percent.

Mitral Valve Repair Reference Center Award

Michigan Medicine is honored to be one of the first 5 medical centers recognized for best practices in heart valve repair with The Mitral Valve Repair Reference Center award. This award was initiated by the Mitral Foundation and the American Heart Association to assist patients and cardiologists in identifying hospitals with excellent processes and outcomes.

MItral Valve Repair Reference Center Award 2020 from Mitral Foundation and American Heart Association: blue "O" shape with white center with Mitral Foundation and AHA logos

Treating Mitral Valve Disease

Mitral valve repair is one of the few cardiac procedures where a patient’s life horizon returns to what it would have been naturally without a mitral valve condition. Performing these repairs early in the disease process before a patient's mitral valve disease progresses into advanced heart conditions such as congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and pulmonary hypertension is our top priority.

Treatment options include:

  • Medication therapy
  • Open-heart surgery
  • Minimally invasive procedures, including minimally invasive surgical procedures and minimally invasive transcatheter procedures

Medication Therapy

Medications to control heart rate, atrial fibrillation and blood pressure are often used to treat heart valve disease. However, medication does not prevent the progression of mitral valve disease, but can help ease the symptoms.

The Frankel CVC team will determine the appropriate medication therapy for your symptoms. Medications may include:

  • Diuretics to reduce the accumulation of fluid in the lungs
  • Beta blockers to slow the heart rate
  • Blood thinners, such as aspirin or prescription drugs, for patients with heart arrhythmias

Open-Heart Surgery

Open-heart surgery is the traditional method of mitral valve repair and replacement. In open-heart surgery, a 6- to 8-inch incision is made down the center of the sternum (breastbone) to open the chest. The patient’s heart is then stopped and connected to a heart-lung machine for the duration of the surgery.

Whenever possible, and fortunately for the majority of patients, the experts at the Frankel CVC are able to repair the mitral valve, thereby keeping the patient’s natural valve in place and functioning normally.  If a patient’s mitral valve is severely damaged to the extent that a successful repair is not possible, surgery to replace it is the likely treatment. The valve is replaced with either a bioprosthetic (tissue) valve or mechanical valve. The type of valve selected is based on such factors as age, lifestyle and ability to tolerate blood thinners.

There is data to support more than 20 years of durability for a mitral valve repair. The durability is based on many factors, including the experience of the surgeon, earlier intervention in the disease course and other medical factors.

Mitral valve replacement with a mechanical valve typically lasts 20 to 25 years. However, mechanical valves are made of extremely durable materials, so there is a possibility their duration could be even longer.

Minimally Invasive Surgical and Transcatheter Procedures

Frankel CVC surgeons are uniquely qualified to determine who is a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure versus open-heart surgery. Our surgeons have expertise in less invasive mitral valve repair and replacement procedures. 

Surgical Procedures

Our team performs complex open surgical repair or replacement of the mitral valve using small incisions — approximately two to three inches — between the ribs on the patient's right side to gain access to the heart. This type of procedure has the potential to shorten a patient’s recovery time and hospital stay.

Transcatheter Procedures

Transcatheter valve technology represents a less invasive means for treating valve disease and is designed to allow physicians to deliver repair devices or replacement valves via a catheter through the body's cardiovascular system, thus eliminating the need to open the chest.

The team at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center is able to offer eligible patients the most advanced minimally invasive transcatheter options for mitral valve repair and replacement. A variety of innovative techniques and devices can be used to repair or replace the mitral valve without opening up the heart.

  • MitraClip is a device that offers minimally invasive treatment for mitral regurgitation in patients for whom open-heart surgery is not feasible. Using a transcatheter approach, the mitral valve is repaired percutaneously (through a needle puncture in the skin). A catheter is then guided through a vein to the heart.
  • Valvuloplasty may be used to treat stenosis, or narrowing, of the mitral valve. During valvuloplasty, a thin catheter (tube) with a balloon tip is used to stretch or open the mitral valve. The catheter is threaded to the heart from the blood vessels in the groin percutaneously with X-ray guidance.
  • Transcatheter mitral valve replacement (MVR) has recently emerged as an exciting new frontier in the minimally invasive treatment of severe mitral regurgitation in patients at high risk for surgery. The procedure, now in clinical trials, involves replacing the mitral valve via a catheter threaded through a blood vessel. U-M is one of only a few health systems nationwide selected to participate in this clinical trial. Transcatheter technology is also being used to restore the function of failing bioprosthetic mitral valves. Known as a valve-in-valve procedure, a new valve is inserted inside of a failing bioprosthetic valve. This technique may offer the best valve replacement option for high-risk surgical patients.
  • NeoChord mitral valve repair system enables minimally invasive implantation of artificial chordae using a catheter-based approach to treat mitral regurgitation. Chordae are thin, cord-like tendons that connect the two mitral valve leaflets to the inside of the heart’s left ventricle. The chordae support the leaflets as they open and close to move the blood through the heart. When chordae become stretched or broken, the mitral valve isn’t able to close properly, resulting in leakage or regurgitation. The NeoChord repair system enables the chordae to be repaired using manmade fiber. See below for NeoChord illustration.

Animated illustration of NeoChord catheter based treatment for mitral valve regurgitation

Clinical Trials

Experts at the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center are involved in the latest clinical trials, which enable them to offer some of the most advanced treatment options for patients with mitral valve disease. Many of these options can’t be found at other health systems. Our experienced team will recommend the most appropriate treatment plan that will result in the best possible outcome for each patient. To learn about clinical trials for mitral valve disease at the University of Michigan, visit and search by condition.

Patient Resources

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment to discuss your need for mitral valve treatment, contact us toll-free at 888-287-1082 or visit our Make a Cardiovascular Appointment page for more information about what to expect when you call us.