Balloon valvuloplasty (also called valvotomy) is a procedure that widens a heart valve that is narrowed. The cause of this narrowing in the aortic valve is aortic valve stenosis.
During this procedure, the doctor puts a thin, flexible tube called a catheter into a blood vessel in your upper leg (groin). The doctor moves the catheter through that blood vessel and into your heart. The catheter has a small balloon at the tip. When the tube reaches the narrow heart valve, the balloon is inflated and deflated. Your doctor might do this a few times. The balloon widens the valve opening. Then your doctor removes the balloon and tube from your body.
During the procedure, you will be awake. But you will receive local anesthesia where the catheter is inserted as well as intravenous (IV) pain medicine along with a sedative to help you relax.
What To Expect
You will likely stay overnight in the hospital after a valvuloplasty. You will be checked for any problems after the procedure, such as bleeding from the site where the catheter was inserted.
Why It Is Done
Balloon valvuloplasty is done to help the valve work better and improve blood flow through the valve. It may be done to relieve symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or passing out (syncope).
Balloon valvuloplasty is not an option for most people who have aortic valve stenosis.
Children, teens, and young adults
Balloon valvuloplasty might be used in some children, teens, and young adults in their 20s who have aortic valve stenosis.footnote 1 This group typically has aortic valve stenosis because of a congenital heart defect such as a bicuspid aortic valve.
Valvuloplasty may be used for pregnant women who get aortic valve stenosis symptoms during their pregnancy.footnote 2 After the woman delivers, she may then have the aortic valve replaced.
Valvuloplasty is not appropriate for most older people who have stenosis. These people typically need an aortic valve replacement procedure. But valvuloplasty might be done to relieve severe symptoms if a person has to wait before having the valve replaced.footnote 3
How Well It Works
Balloon valvuloplasty is generally an effective treatment for aortic valve stenosis in children, teens, and young adults but has very limited effectiveness in older adults. In most older adults, the valve becomes narrowed again (restenosis) within 6 to 12 months after this procedure.footnote 4
Balloon valvuloplasty works better in younger people because of the difference in the causes of aortic valve stenosis in younger and older people. Young people typically have the condition because they were born with a bicuspid valve, which is an aortic valve that has two leaflets instead of three. But older people typically get stenosis over many years through a gradual hardening and buildup of calcium on their valves. This is a process called aortic sclerosis, which is similar to atherosclerosis, the buildup of hard plaque inside the arteries.
After a valvotomy procedure in a young person, the aortic valve is wider, but it is still not normal. Over time, the valve can get narrow again, so another procedure or valve replacement might be done.
A valvuloplasty procedure includes risks. For children, teens, and young adults, problems include bleeding and heart rhythm changes. The chance of having a problem from the procedure varies based on how severe the disease is.footnote 5
For older adults, serious complications happen in 1 or 2 out of 10 people who have this procedure. These problems include stroke, blood vessel problems that need surgery, and death.footnote 6
Complications related to the catheter include:
- Pain, swelling, and tenderness at the catheter insertion site.
- Irritation of the vein by the catheter (superficial thrombophlebitis). This can usually be treated with warm compresses.
- Bleeding at the catheter site.
- A bruise where the catheter was inserted. This usually goes away in a few days.
- Trouble urinating after the procedure.
- Feltes TF, et al. (2011). Indications for cardiac catheterization and intervention in pediatric cardiac disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 123(22): 2607–2652.
- Cannobio MM, et al. (2017). Management of pregnancy in patients with complex congenital heart disease: A scientific statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 135(8): e50–e87. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000458. Accessed March 2, 2017.
- Nishimura RA, et al. (2017). 2017 AHA/ACC focused update of the 2014 AHA/ACC guideline for the management of patients with valvular heart disease. Circulation, published online March 15, 2017. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000503. Accessed March 15, 2017.
- Nishimura RA, et al. (2014). 2014 AHA/ACC guideline for the management of patients with valvular heart disease: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, published online March 3, 2014. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000031. Accessed May 1, 2014.
- Boe BA, et al. (2017). Acute success of balloon aortic valvuloplasty in the current era: A National Cardiovascular Data Registry study. Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Interventions, 10(17): 1717–1726. DOI: 10.1016/j.jcin.2017.08.001. Accessed April 4, 2018.
- Alkhouli M, et al. (2017). Morbidity and mortality associated with balloon valvuloplasty: A nationwide perspective. Circulation: Cardiovascular Interventions, 10: e004481. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCINTERVENTIONS.116.004481. Accessed April 5, 2018.
Current as of: December 16, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Rakesh K. Pai MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Brian D. O'Brien MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
David C. Stuesse MD - Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery
Michael P. Pignone MD, MPH, FACP - Internal Medicine
Current as of: December 16, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Rakesh K. Pai MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Brian D. O'Brien MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & David C. Stuesse MD - Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery & Michael P. Pignone MD, MPH, FACP - Internal Medicine