What is Valvuloplasty?

What is Valvuloplasty?

What is valvuloplasty?

Valvuloplasty is a cardiac cath lab procedure that treats a narrow or stiff heart valve. In valvuloplasty, your heart doctor threads a catheter (narrow tube) through a blood vessel into your heart. A small balloon at the end of the catheter inflates to stretch the valve so blood flows more easily through it.

Why do I need it?

Your hearts valves work like doors or gates to keep blood moving in one direction through the heart chambers. The valves also prevent oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood from mixing together.

A healthy heart valve has leaflets that open to let blood through and then close to keep it from flowing backward. Disease, birth defects, or the aging process can make heart valves narrow or stiff. When this happens, your heart must work harder to pump blood through the valve.

Valve problems can cause symptoms such as dizziness, chest pain, breathing problems, swollen ankles, or an abnormal heartbeat. Heart valves are often repaired or replaced in surgery, but in some cases they can be treated with valvuloplasty in the cardiac cath lab. Valvuloplasty can help your heart during the time gap before a valve replacement surgery is scheduled, or it can help you postpone open heart surgery or avoid surgery altogether.

Talking with your doctor

The table below lists the most common potential benefits, risks, and alternatives for valvuloplasty. Other benefits and risks may apply in your medical situation. Talking with your doctor is the most important part of learning about these risks and benefits. If you have questions, be sure to ask them

Potential benefits

  • A valve that works more efficiently, which may relieve symptoms that were caused by a stiff or narrow heart valve
  • Avoiding or postponing open heart surgery

Risks and potential complications

Major complications are rare. Risks and potential complications include:

  • Temporary leg numbness or weakness in the first few hours afterward (rare)
  • Continued valve stiffness or narrowness
  • Leakage in the valve treated
  • Damage to the heart muscle or heart valve that may require open heart surgery
  • Bleeding, infection, or blood vessel damage where the catheter(s) were inserted
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Blood clots
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Negative reaction to anesthetic or dye
  • Unforeseen complications


Alternatives to valvuloplasty include:

  • Heart valve repair surgery
  • Heart valve replacement surgery
  • Catheter-based valve replacement (now being investigated)


When should I contact the doctor?

Call your doctor if you experience any of these:

  •  A fever over 101F.
  •  Redness, swelling, or drainage near the catheter site
  •  Bleeding or severe pain near the catheter site
  •  Coldness or numbness in your arm or leg
  •  Shortness of breath
  •  Cough (especially when lying down)
  •  Excessive urination
  •  Swelling in your hands or ankles



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