Heart Valve Surgery

If your heart valves weaken or harden, you may require an operation to repair or replace damaged valves. Our experienced heart specialists will discuss your treatment options with you.

What Causes Heart Valve Disease?

Your heart has four valves, which ensure that your blood flows forward as your heart contracts and relaxes. The valves can become weak or harden. Causes of heart valve disease include:

  • The natural aging process
    A disease such as rheumatic fever or bacterial infection
  • A heart valve problem greatly increases the work your heart must do. Some people with weakened valves can lead normal lives, under careful medical supervision. However, others may require an operation to repair or replace the damaged valve. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of heart valve disorders.

Types of Heart Valve Disease

There are two types of valve disease:

  • Stenosis occurs when a valve becomes stiff with calcium deposits and has a problem opening. This makes it difficult for the blood to flow from chamber to chamber.
  • Regurgitation or insufficiency occurs when a valve has problems closing properly, which may cause blood to leak back in the wrong direction.

Heart Valve Surgery in Virginia

At Sentara, we offer two options for heart valve surgery:

  • Heart valve repair. Your surgeon will adjust your heart valve to help it work better. We often perform minimally invasive heart surgery for this repair. A minimally invasive procedure is often a surgeon’s first choice because it is easier on you, preserves heart muscle strength and carries a lower risk of infection. Heart valve repair is the most common minimally invasive heart surgery.
  • Heart valve replacement. Your surgeon will replace the diseased valve with a new one, either a mechanical (manmade) or biological (tissue) valve. Mechanical valves last longer but require you to take anticoagulant medication for the rest of your life to prevent blood clots around the valve. Biological valves (from pigs or human donors) do not last as long but do not require anticoagulants. Visit our Cardiac Media Library to learn more about heart valve replacement surgery.

Your cardiac team will discuss your options with you and choose the approach that offers you the best outcome. Learn more about the differences between valve replacement and valve repair.

Heart Valve Surgery: Minimally Invasive Approach

At Sentara, we strive to provide you with the least invasive cardiac procedure possible. Keep in mind that not every person is a candidate for minimally invasive surgery. Your medical team has your best outcome in mind, and they will choose the surgical approach that will be most effective for you.


At Sentara Heart Hospital, cardiothoracic surgeons use minimally invasive procedures for:

  • Mitral valve repair or replacement
  • Aortic valve repair or replacement
  • Tricuspid valve repair or replacement


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