Mitral valve repair or replacement in elderly people

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Purpose of review

Much has been published so far to describe and praise the benefits of mitral valve repair, and to compare it with valve replacement. Now, with mitral valve surgery in elderly people gaining greater acceptance worldwide, repair or replacement remains a controversial issue. This is especially true in the ageing population, in whom many of the complications associated with a mechanical valve can be avoided by using a bioprosthesis. This review will try to assess the latest views in the field and come up with possible answers to this ongoing question.

Recent findings

The causes of mitral regurgitation in this age group are separately reviewed and discussed in the light of our better understanding of the pathophysiology of the disease. Mitral surgery is recommended when the effective regurgitant orifice reaches 40 mm2. Repair in degenerative disease seems to be feasible, with good long-term results. In chronic ischaemic regurgitation, the concept of a tethered ‘normal valve’ is changing. The ‘poor’ ventricle may be able to withstand surgery as long as the subvalvular apparatus is preserved; on the other hand, repair and replacement seem to have the same survival advantage in high-risk patients.


Mitral valve surgery is well tolerated in elderly people. Early intervention leads inevitably to better outcome. The majority of valvular disorders in this age group are amenable to repair, with good reproducible results. Replacement with a bioprosthesis remains a viable option for complex regurgitant jets.

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