Public Affairs Associate
Brooklyn, NY – February 12, 2009 –
Photo Caption: Leonard Y. Lee, M.D., program director of cardiac surgery, examines a patient.
The mitral valve sits within the heart, between two other valves: the atrium and the ventricle. From that position, it performs a very important function: it keeps blood flowing in one direction between the atrium and ventricle. When the valve is compromised by disease, one of two things happens. In the first scenario, the mitral valve gets leaky, allowing the blood to flow in the wrong direction. That usually results in a backup of fluid in the lungs and shortness of breath, leading to congestive heart failure.
In the other scenario, the mitral valve becomes very narrow and does not allow blood to travel through the heart, also resulting in congestive heart failure. If this is left untreated, fluid can back up into the lungs, preventing the absorption of oxygen. Shortness of breath ensues and the heart, which is overworked, may fail to pump blood.
There are several causes for mitral valve disease. Childhood rheumatic fever may result in damage to the mitral valve later in life. Another cause is chronic high blood pressure. Mitral valve disease is typically detected during a routine diagnostic evaluation using an echocardiogram.
During the minimally invasive procedure to repair the damage, the patient is placed on a heart-lung machine, which takes over the pumping of the heart and the oxygenating of the blood. This procedure does not require stopping the heart, as is the case in traditional heart surgery. While the heart continues to beat, the function of pumping blood is temporarily outsourced to a machine, thereby clearing the heart of blood and allowing the surgeon a clear area in which to work. “Performing this procedure on a beating heart results in less trauma,” said Dr. Lee. As long as it beats, the heart continues to receive nutrients, like oxygen, which are carried in the blood.
The minimally invasive procedure results in a reduced recovery time and the shortness of breath that is symptomatic of the disease is resolved. “We think that this procedure is revolutionary for heart surgery and it is a great benefit for patients who require mitral valve surgery,” said Dr. Lee.
New York Methodist Hospital, a voluntary, acute-care teaching facility located in Brooklyn’s Park Slope, houses 651 inpatient beds (including bassinets) and provides services to over 34,000 inpatients each year. An additional 350,000 outpatient visits and services are logged annually. The Hospital offers Institutes in the following areas: Advanced and Minimally Invasive Surgery, Asthma and Lung Disease; Cancer Care; Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery; Digestive and Liver Disorders; Diabetes and Other Endocrine Disorders; Vascular Medicine and Surgery; Family Care; Neurosciences; Orthopedic Medicine and Surgery and Women’s Health. The Hospital, founded in 1881, has undergone extensive renovation and modernization over the years. New York Methodist is affiliated with the Weill College of Medicine at