Valvuloplasty is the widening of a stenotic valve using a balloon catheter inside the valve. Valvuloplasty may be done to open a heart valve that has become stiff from calcium buildup. Also, if the heart valves become damaged or diseased, they may not work properly.

When one or more valves becomes stiff, the heart muscle must work harder to pump blood through the valve. Stiff valves may be caused by infection, birth defects, and aging.

The balloon is placed into the valve that has become stiff from calcium buildup.

Signs & Symptoms

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The most common reason for your doctor to recommend a valvuloplasty is heart valve disease. Heart valve disease may cause the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Palpitations
  • Edema (swelling) of the feet, ankles, or abdomen
  • Rapid weight gain due to fluid retention

What to Expect

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Your doctor will be sure to explain the procedure to you and will ask if you have any questions. You will need to fast for a certain amount of time before the procedure. Your doctor will discuss this with you, usually, you must fast overnight. You will discuss your medical history with your doctor and your doctor may request a blood test. You will remove any jewelry, dentures, or hearing aids and change into a hospital gown. You will also be asked to empty your bladder before the procedure.


A healthcare professional will start an IV line in your hand or arm to inject medicine or give IV fluids if needed. You will then be connected to an electrocardiogram (ECG) to monitor and record the electrical activity to the heart. Your vital signs will be monitored during the procedure.

You may receive a sedative to help you relax, but you will likely remain awake for the procedure. A local anesthetic will be injected into the skin at the insertion site. You may feel some stinging for the first few seconds after the injection.

Once the anesthetic has taken effect, your doctor will insert a sheath into the blood vessel. This is a plastic tube through which the catheter will be inserted into the blood vessel and advanced into the heart. Your doctor will insert the valvuloplasty catheter through the sheath into the blood vessel and to the heart.

Once the catheter is in place, your doctor will inject a contrast dye through the catheter into the valve to look at the area. Once the balloon is in place and is inflated, your doctor (watching the monitor) may inflate or deflate the balloon several times to open the valve. Once the valve is opening sufficiently, your doctor will remove the catheter and he or she may close the catheter insertion site with a closure device, by the use of sutures, or by applying manual pressure over the area to keep the blood vessel from bleeding.


You will be taken to the recovery area for observation or returned to a hospital room. You will remain flat in a bed for several hours after the procedures. A nurse will monitor your vital signs, the insertion site, and the circulation and sensation in the affected leg or arm. You will be given medicine for pain or discomfort.

You will most likely spend the night in the hospital after your procedure and may stay longer depending on how you are recovering.


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What are the risks associated with valvuloplasty?

Possible risks may include:
- bleeding at the catheter insertion site
- blood clot or damage to the blood vessel at the insertion site
- significant blood loss that may require blood transfusion
- infection at the catheter insertion site
- abnormal heart rhythms
- kidney failure
- stroke
- new or worsening valve regurgitation (leakage)
- rupture of the valve (requiring open-heart surgery)
- death