What Is Balloon Valvuloplasty?
Balloon valvuloplasty can be thought of as “angioplasty” of the valves. Angioplasty is a technique in which a physician inserts a catheter with a deflated balloon into an artery where it’s narrow, inflates the balloon and attempts to stretch open the area of narrowing. After the narrowing has been opened, the balloon is deflated and removed. Typically when this is done a little wire mesh device called a stent is left in place to keep the artery open. when we do this with the arteries in the heart, we’d leave a stent or a little wire mesh by to keep the artery open.
The same type of procedure can be done on the heart valves, only without use of a stent. The problem has been that when the balloons are opened in the valve, there is some risk that this will disturb the valve structure itself and this can actually make a narrow valve open to the point that it starts to leak.
Also, in the case of the aortic valve, physicians have discovered that after opening a narrowed valve with a balloon the valve can become narrow again within 6 months. As a result, balloon valvuloplasty is not frequently done on the aortic valve.
Balloon valvulopasty is done on the mitral valve for stenosis, but mitral valve stenosis is a fairly uncommon condition in the developing world.