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Glossary of terms

Aortic valve – One of the heart valves that controls blood flow from the lower heart chambers to the arteries. It is located at the outlet of the heart between the left ventricle (major pumping chamber of heart) and the aorta (major blood vessel which supplies blood around the body).

Mitral valve – One of the heart valves that controls blood flow from the upper heart chambers to the lower chambers. It sits between the left atrium and the left ventricle (major pumping chamber of heart), very close to the lungs.

Mechanical valve – An artificial valve, made from a mixture of metals, very smooth carbon and a cloth sewing ring which enables it to be sewn in the heart. Once a mechanical valve is inserted lifelong blood thinning treatments are required.

Tissue valve – An artificial valve, made from animal tissues (pig or cow) and mounted on a frame with cloth surround, enabling it to be sewn into the heart. There is no requirement for blood thinning treatment once a tissue valve is inserted, unless there is another reason for these tablets to be given.

Mitral valve repair – the mitral valve is a dual-flap valve. If the two flaps – or leaflets – do not meet properly when the valve closes this can result in leakage which can be repaired by restoring the meeting points of the valves. If a mitral valve repair is carried out, the presence of the patient’s normal tissues is maintained and the best outcome is usually achieved.

TAVI – TAVI stands for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation and is a minimally invasive alternative to conventional surgical replacement of the aortic valves. It involves inserting a crimped replacement valve attached to a catheter usually via a small incision in the groin. Once in position in it is either balloon-inflated or self-expanded in the diseased valve in order to return blood flow to normal. TAVI is thought to offer effective treatment for patients who are considered too high risk for conventional surgical aortic valve replacement.

Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) – Unlike traditional open heart surgery which is very invasive, MIS allows a heart valve to be inserted through a small incision in the groin or chest which is far less invasive. This technique provides a better cosmetic result, offers quicker recovery times and potentially avoids some of the complications associated with conventional open heart surgery. However, at this stage MIS is not suitable for every patient and should be discussed with a healthcare professional.

Valve replacement – valve replacement involves removing a faulty or damaged valve and replacing it with a new one made from synthetic materials or animal tissue. This surgery is carried out under general anaesthetic. The valve may need to be replaced as it has become narrowed (stenosis) or the valve is leaky (regurgitation).

Valve Stenosis or obstruction - This is primarily due to age-related hardening (calcification) of the aortic valve leading to progressive narrowing. The valve can either be exceptionally narrow (therefore having a “stenosis”) or have a blockage which limits the blood flow through the valve. This may result in a “back-up” of blood behind the valve as if behind a dam, causing the heart to pump inefficiently or building up blood pressure in the lungs. This is most commonly associated with aortic stenosis or mitral stenosis.

Valve Regurgitation or insufficiency - When a valve fails to close completely, the valve itself can become “leaky,” allowing blood to backwash down through the valve (called “regurgitation”). In addition, the valve may not ever completely move the volume of blood to the next appropriate chamber. This condition includes mitral regurgitation and aortic regurgitation.