Mitral Valve Repair Safe for Seniors


A procedure once considered too high risk for older patients has now been shown to be safe and effective for the Boomer and Beyond age group. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine report that heart surgery to repair the mitral valve leads to a better quality of life for seniors.

The results, available online and published in the December issue of the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, provide much-needed data on patients 65 years and older that could guide future treatment recommendations for people with severe heart disease.

A release from the university quotes Vinay Badhwar, M.D. as saying, “It is widely accepted that mitral repair is the treatment of choice for people with severe heart disease caused by a leaking mitral valve, and it can restore life expectancy to normal. However, in older patients, current guidelines recommend initial medical management of the disease, delaying surgery until symptoms are very advanced. In some cases, delays in surgery can lower quality of life and make the eventual surgery riskier as the patient’s health further deteriorates.”

The release notes that fewer than 3 percent of the patients in the study, who had an average age of 73, died during surgery. The five-year survival rate was nearly 75 percent. One of the most important findings was that following mitral repair, the 10-year survival rate was more than 57 percent, comparable to the average age-matched U.S. population without heart disease. 

“Our data show that not only is mitral valve repair a safe option for elderly patients because of its excellent early outcomes and the low incidence of late stroke and bleeding, but it also is a well-tolerated and lasting solution for the treatment of severe heart disease,” Dr. Badhwar said. “This information will improve medical guidelines to emphasize the importance of timely referral of older patients for mitral valve surgery . . .The baby boomer generation will be entirely over age 65 by 2030, making it critical that we research and promote therapies that can influence long-term, hospital-free survival of older people. Such measures will have lasting health care implications and allow hospitals to best manage their resources.”
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