Longevity Improved Following Heart Valve Surgery

Patients with mitral regurgitation are living longer after the operation

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Patients who receive a heart valve for disease common among the elderly are living longer following surgery. Researchers have said improved surgical techniques, and lower rates of post-operative complications have improved.

Those with mitral regurgitation typically have a surgery in which the mitral valve is replaced or repaired, though the operation carries hefty risks of dying or complications such as infections.

"Always ask your doctor about risks prior to surgery."

John A. Dodson, MD, a postdoctoral fellow in cardiology and geriatrics at Yale School of Medicine, found that both short and long-term survival have increased after the procedure for patients of any age, gender or race.

During the study researchers reviewed the Medicare records of 157,032 patients over the age of 65 who underwent  mitral valve surgery between 1999 and 2008. They then analyzed death rates at 30 days and one year.

Researchers found that 30-day mortality decreased from 8 percent to 4 percent between 1999 and 2008, while the one-year risk of death was reduced from 15 percent to 9 percent over the same period, a relative decline of 40 percent.

Though patients are living longer, investigators found that mortality remained higher for women and non-white patients as compared to men and white patients for all years studied.

During the study period, the overall rate of the heart valve procedure declined 9 percent, with very elderly patients over the age of 85 making up a larger percentage of patients. Those over 85 made up 9 percent of patients in 1999 compared to 13 percent in 2008. Investigators also observed that the procedure was more commonly performed in white patients and men.

"The marked reduction in mortality after mitral valve surgery over time is an encouraging trend for cardiac surgery," said Dr. Dodson.

"Although our study was not designed to identify causes for the reduction in mortality, several factors may be responsible, including improved surgical techniques, and lower rates of post-operative complications."

Researchers said differences in mortality outcomes among gender and race subgroups deserve further investigation.

The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, was recently published in American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. Dr. Dodson also presented the research at the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Review Date: 
May 11, 2012
Last Updated:
July 10, 2012