Information for the public
The mitral valve lies between the left chambers of the heart. It prevents blood flowing back from the bottom chamber to the top chamber when the heart contracts to pump oxygenated blood from the lungs to the body. The valve can start to fail, usually either because it becomes narrow or leaky. This affects the flow of blood through the heart into the body. It puts extra strain on the heart, which can lead to breathlessness, tiredness and palpitations.
Treatment for a failing mitral valve usually involves removing the valve and replacing it with an artificial mechanical or bioprosthetic valve (a valve made of animal tissue or a combination of animal tissue and other materials). In people who are well enough, this is usually done by open heart surgery.
Bioprosthetic valves have some advantages over mechanical ones but are more likely to wear out and fail over time. A failed bioprosthetic valve is usually replaced through open heart surgery but the risks are higher with repeat surgery than during the first surgery.
NICE has looked at using transapical transcatheter mitral valve-in-valve implantation as another treatment option.
NHS Choices (www.nhs.uk) may be a good place to find out more.