Mitral Insufficiency

Mitral insufficiency is a condition in which the mitral valve, one of the valves in the heart, does not close properly, letting blood leak back into the heart. Heart valves are supposed to help blood flow in one direction between the heart chambers, or in and out of the heart. It is the most common type of heart valve disorder. The mitral valve is on the left side of the heart and lets blood flow from the upper to the lower heart chamber. Due to an infection or some other cause, the mitral valve may not close tightly, allowing blood to leak backward. That in turn creates a decrease in blood flow to the rest of the body and makes the heart work harder.

While small leaks are usually not a cause for concern, larger leaks can weaken the heart over time. Doctors can pinpoint mitral valve regurgitation through hearing a certain type of heart murmur. There are two kinds of mitral regurgitation: chronic, the most common type that develops slowly and may worsen as the person gets older; and acute, which develops quickly and is a medical emergency.

The UAB Structural Heart & Valve Program is the oldest and largest program of its kind in Alabama. It provides ongoing care – sometimes for life – to patients who have or are at risk for structural heart and valve disease. Our experienced surgeons and cardiologists take a comprehensive approach to diagnosing and treating this condition, and their expertise ranges from traditional open-heart surgery to robotic-assisted valve repair and the latest in minimally invasive surgical techniques, which require only small incisions (cuts).

The UAB Structural Heart & Valve Clinic has achieved several important milestones in the past decade. In 2012, we performed the first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) in Alabama, and UAB has performed more TAVR procedures than any other hospital in the state. As an added service, patients who have been told by non-UAB doctors that they need valve surgery can speak to a UAB structural heart and valve surgeon for a second opinion.


James Davies, M.D. | Heart Valve Disease
Heart Valve Disease
The heart has four valves that are responsible for keeping blood moving through its chambers and around the body. James Davies, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon at UAB, talks to Daytime Alabama on WVTM-TV, Channel 13, in Birmingham, Ala., about how valve disease can be prevented, detected, and treated.
Sarah Ford | Heart surgery at UAB
Sarah’s Heart
When Sarah Ford found out she needed heart surgery, she made the drive from her home in Dothan to Birmingham to receive treatment at UAB. The experienced surgeons, compassionate staff, and cutting-edge care at UAB made her feel secure and safe.

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