Valve Repair & Replacement

Who is it for?

Repairing a diseased valve

In some cases, blood flow through the heart valves can be improved by surgically separating the valve’s leaflets or removing tissues that are obstructing the valve. Valve repair may be a good option for some patients, such as when:

  • An infant’s valve leaflets are fused together
  • A patient has tissue on or near the valve that interferes with blood flow through the valve
  • An adult’s valve is damaged to the point of causing severe narrowing or leakage

Advantages of valve repair over replacement include the following:

  • Less risk of infection
  • Less need for lifelong use of blood-thinning medication (anticoagulants)
  • Improvement of heart function by preserving the structure of the mitral valve

Replacing a diseased valve

If your valve can’t be repaired and must be replaced, your surgeon will implant one of the mechanical, manufactured, or biological valves described in the following table.



Mechanical Valves



Tissue or Biological Valves


What are they?

  • Valves manufactured from metal or carbon fiber
  • Valves made from tissue taken from a cow (bovine), pig (porcine), or human cadaver (homograft or allograft) that may also have artificial parts (also called tissue valves or bioprosthetic)


  • Long-term durability
  • Only have to take blood-thinning medications for the first few months after surgery


  • Blood clots, which can lead to stroke or heart attack
  • Increased risk of bleeding from taking blood-thinning (anticoagulant) medications for the rest of your life
  • May have to visit a doctor once a month to monitor levels of anticoagulation medications
  • May make a clicking noise
  • Durability is less than for a mechanical valve
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Women's Heart Health

Special consideration for women of child-bearing age

Although mechanical valves have long-term durability, taking some blood-thinning medications may cause birth defects, depending on when they are taken. Women of child-bearing age who are concerned about the possible risks to babies born of future pregnancies often opt for a tissue or biological valve and then, if necessary, have the valve replaced with a mechanical valve later.

It’s important to talk with your doctor to help you weigh the risks and benefits associated with each type of valve so that you choose the valve that’s right for you.