COVID-19: Vaccine information and additional resources | Medicaid: The program is changing and you must take steps to keep your UNC Health providers

Mitral Valve Repair

The mitral valve is known as the heart's "inflow" valve. It is located on the left side of the heart and its purpose is to move blood from the left atrium to the left ventricle. When it closes, it keeps blood from flowing backward through the heart. Sometimes your mitral valve will stop working like it should. When this occurs, repair or replacement may be warranted. There are many reasons this may occur including:

  • Stenosis -- the valve is narrowed, blocking blood flow
  • Regurgitation -- the valve allows blood to leak into the left atrium
  • Infection that damages the valve
  • Severe mitral valve prolapse (the valve doesn't close properly) that does not respond to medication

When one of these problems occurs and you begin having symptoms like chest pain, fainting or heart failure, it may be time for surgery. depending on the reason your valve does not work, your surgeon may need to replace the valve or he may be able to repair it.

What to Expect

Mitral valve repair is an open heart surgery. During the procedure, your doctor will sew the damaged flaps on the valve and, if needed, reinforce the ring that holds the valve in place. There are two main approaches to this type of procedure: traditional or minimally invasive. Both approached use the heart and lung machine, however, the minimally invasive approach required a smaller incision.


  • Typically needed if the damage is severe enough that doctors need full access to the mitral valve
  • The surgeon will make an incision in the middle of your chest, running from the top of the chest to the bottom, and divide the sternum is divided to gain access to the heart.

Minimally Invasive

  • The incision is made on the lower half to third of the chest, and the sternum is divided.
  • The surgery is endoscopic (performed through a tube with a camera at the end).

Depending on the type of surgery, you should plan on spending up to five days in the hospital afterward. The first 24 to 48 hours will be spent in the Cardiothoracic Recovery Unit (CTRU), where you will be monitored. After that you will move to 4 West, the "step down unit." There you will be assisted with getting your strength back and get the instructions need for your recovery at home after discharge.

Recovery typically lasts a total of 6 to 8 weeks. During that time, you will gradually be able to return to your usual level of activity.

Trusted Experts

The professional, caring staff at REX Cardiac Surgical Specialists is here to help ease you safely through your mitral valve repair surgery. People who choose Rex are consistently satisfied with the high-quality care we provide every patient.

When undergoing heart surgery, you want to know that your specialists are not only knowledgeable, but are well versed in the most up-to-date techniques. tHE UNC REX cardiac surgeons have 25 years of experience each and are constantly working on the latest changes and innovations in the heart care field.

At UNC REX, you can trust that you will be taken care of by an entire team of specialists including cardiologists as well as vascular and thoracic surgeons. UNC REX Healthcare provides the perfect combination of compassion, expertise and exceptional clinical outcomes.

For more information on heart valve repair, visit the web sites of the National Institutes of Health or the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

Related Locations