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The Heart Valve Clinic at Montefiore Medical Center

More than 125,000 valve surgery procedures are performed each year in the United States. While most of the procedures are valve replacements, experts at Montefiore Medical Center believe patients should also be given the option of valve repair. Robert Michler, MD, Surgeon-in-Chief, Professor and Chairman, Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine said, “For a patient with valve troubles, it is always better to have a valve repaired. One should seek to preserve your own native tissue since in many cases it lasts much longer than a total valve replacement.”

Fifty-eight-year-old Donald G. knows the benefits of “saving your heart valve.” When a heart murmur was detected during a physical fifteen years ago, he went to see Dr. Michler who recommended that his badly damaged aortic valve required surgery. The aortic valve is the valve in the body’s main artery that takes blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Rather than replacing that valve with artificial material, Dr. Michler performed the Ross Procedure, a type of specialized aortic valve surgery where the patient’s diseased aortic valve is replaced with his or her own pulmonary valve. The pulmonary valve is then replaced with a cryopreserved pulmonary valve from a cadaver.

Just recently, when Donald went in for a routine echo exam, an aneurysm (ballooned enlargement) was detected, as well as a leakage, in the aortic valve. Dr. Michler once again performed surgery to remove the aneurysm and fix the leaky valve, rather than replace it, a demanding and meticulous operation. Donald is recovering nicely and says he is happy for the “fix, rather than the replacement.”

“I was thrilled that Dr. Michler was actually able to repair my own valve, since a mechanical or cadaver valve may never work as well,” said Donald.

“I had surgery four days ago and I am now resting comfortably at home.”

In order to educate patients on the intricacies of valve repair, Montefiore has established the Comprehensive Heart Valve Repair Program. Each week, Dr. Michler and Mario Garcia, MD, Professor and Chief, Division of Cardiology meet together with patients in order to review a patients tests and design treatment plans for patients whose valves let blood leak back into the heart chambers or do not fully open. Valve repair versus valve replacement is determined by a host of factors including age, sex, risk factors for bleeding and other medical conditions. Working as a team, Dr. Michler and Dr. Garcia work to deliver exceptional care for patients with even the most complex valve disease.