The term balloon valvuloplasty refers to a surgery performed on patients diagnosed with symptoms of stenosis. A condition associated with narrowing of the valves of heart, stenosis is treated in the procedure of balloon valvuloplasty through the introduction of a deflated balloon, which is later inflated at the opening of the affected valve for its enlargement. During the course of surgery, doctors anaesthetize the groin area to insert a thin tube with a small deflated balloon in the blood vessel. This tube or catheter is guided to the opening of the stenotic valve through the coronary artery. Once there, the balloon is inflated repeatedly to allow the valve to dilate.
Stenosis makes it difficult for a valve to contract resulting in irregular flow of blood. This happens when the flaps at the opening of a valve thicken, become stiff or get fused. Under these circumstances, the heart pumps harder to manage the flow of blood and oxygen to the body. Such a defect in the valve could be congenital (since birth) or acquired gradually due to ageing and prolonged heart diseases. Other reasons such as rheumatic fever and bacterial endocarditis are also held responsible for this condition. Shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, fainting from exhaustion, arrhythmia and abnormal blood pressure are some common signs of stenosis. The objective of the surgery is to relieve the patient of these symptoms and encourage normal functioning of the affected valve. Of the four valves of heart- aortic, pulmonary, mitral and tricuspid- balloon valvuloplasty helps in treating the first three, in case the signs of narrowing are not corrected by medicines administered before.
The surgical procedure of balloon valvuloplasty consumes 4 hours and may require the patient to be admitted in the hospital for a period of 1-3 days. After the surgery, doctors monitor the condition of the patient for signs of possible complications. Kidney failure, respiratory arrest, blood clotting in femoral artery, infection in the operated area and reaction to medications are some of the complications. However, it is important to note that such a situation rarely occurs.
Post successful balloon valvuloplasty, patients can resume normal activities within two weeks. But they have to be vigilant about their health and punctual with check-ups to help cardiologists monitor the functioning and condition of valves. In a few cases, people are advised to avoid strenuous physical tasks to prevent them from causing any kind of damage to the heart. The recorded rate of success for balloon valvuloplasty ranges from 83-95% making it a viable option for ailing patients.