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    Prompt Surgery May Be Best for Heart Valve Leak

    Study findings challenge policy of 'watchful waiting' for people with mitral valve regurgitation


    "There really is no safe period to watchfully wait," he said. "Once patients have severe leakage, it's like having chest pain when you're having a heart attack. We need to act now."

    Dr. Mariell Jessup, president of the American Heart Association, said the Mayo study could prompt a change in the guidelines doctors use to determine when heart surgery is necessary.

    "People will certainly have to look at this large study and the lessons learned from it and take it into consideration when they're updating the valvular guidelines," said Jessup, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

    Suri said people who have a heart murmur should talk with their doctor about getting an echocardiogram, which can detect heart valve leakage.

    If leakage is detected, the patient needs to seek out a cardiologist and a medical center with experience in repairing heart valves, he said.

    "In the current era, it's 95 percent to 99 percent likely we'll be able to save that valve using their very own tissue," Suri said.

    It is very important that patients seek out a top-notch heart center, Jessup said. Although heart valve surgery has improved dramatically over the years, it is still a complex procedure that must be performed by an expert.

    "Just because the study says to go ahead and do it, don't have it done at a local hospital," Jessup said. "This is not routine surgery. It should be done in the hands of a surgeon who does this a lot."

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