There are several treatment options for MR depending on the type and severity of regurgitation.
Your health care provider will follow your condition with routine echocardiograms (ultrasounds of the heart) to see how badly the valve is leaking and whether it is worsening over time. According to the ultrasound, your MR may be mild, moderate, or severe.
Your doctor will likely order tests to monitor your condition and decide if you need or are ready to have your valve repaired or replaced. You will work together with your care team to decide which option is best and safest for you. If your MR is considered severe, your provider may refer you to see a heart surgeon, an interventional cardiologist, and other specialists on a valve team.
Treatment options for MR include medical therapy, and repair or replacement.
Treatment with medications and lifestyle changes (such as limiting fluid intake and monitoring weight) to control the symptoms related to MR.
Medical therapy does not address the leaky valve itself, but this may be the best option for patients who have no symptoms in the “watchful waiting” phase of their disease, or for those who do not wish to or cannot undergo surgery.
Repair or Replacement
A cardiac surgeon may recommend open-heart surgery to either repair or replace the mitral valve.
Some minimally invasive surgical techniques, done through small incisions in the chest, can repair or replace the mitral valve. Robot-assisted heart surgery is also an option for some patients.
In patients who are deemed high-risk for open-heart surgery, a mitral valve “clip” can be delivered via a catheter-based technique to decrease valve regurgitation. Certain clinical trials offered at specialized centers across the country also offer catheter-based mitral valve replacement, although this technique remains investigational.
If you have surgery or other interventional procedure, your valve team will talk to you about recovery time, the need for blood thinners and any physical limits you should know about.
It is important to remember that you and your family are a part of the decision-making process, and the more questions you ask, the better!
Living With Mitral Regurgitation
While discussing treatment options with your provider, it is important for you to monitor yourself for the signs and symptoms of worsening mitral regurgitation.
The goal is to keep you out of the hospital by preventing fluid from building up in your lungs. Fluid buildup will make you feel tired, sluggish, and short of breath. You may even have a hard time breathing at night. Some people must sleep upright or propped up with pillows if they retain too much fluid in their lungs.
All together, these symptoms are called congestive heart failure (CHF). If you notice any of them, call your provider at once.