People suffering from mitral valve regurgitation can attest to the deterioration of their quality of life.
For most individuals, they become easily fatigued, experience breath shortness and palpitation. In certain cases, patients reported chest pain.
Oftentimes the symptoms are mild, progressing slowly. In fact, some people with the disease might not exhibit symptoms for many years.
Mitral valve regurgitation, also known as leaky mitral valve is a common heart valve disease where the valve between the left heart chambers does not close completely.
This condition allows blood to leak backwards across the valve, reducing blood circulation within the body.
More frightening is the fact that the cause of this disease is unknown, mostly being attributed to degenerative processes such as ageing.
“Mitral valve disease is the most common disease among all the other valve diseases,” said Institut Jantung Negara (IJN) Senior Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon Professor Dato’ Seri Dr Azhari Yakub, adding that it usually occurs among individuals aged between 40 to 60, although there are younger patients.
Azhari said the conventional treatment for mitral valve regurgitation was to sever the defective valve and replace it with a prosthetic equivalent.
However, there are risks involved such as the patient developing stroke or thromboembolism, which means a blot clot going to the brain. Further on, the patient may also need to take blood thinning medication.
According to him, IJN is one of the centres in Malaysia that pioneers mitral valve repair, a superior but technically demanding technique that reduces said risks.
“The advantage of valve repair is that you preserve your own valve, the heart functions better and there are fewer complications as compared to valve replacement,” said Azhari.
He further cited the European Cardiothoracic Guideline which recommends mitral valve repair as the first choice and to be done by an experienced surgeon. Referring to international guidelines, a proficient surgeon should ideally perform 50 surgeries a year.
The mitral valve repair technique involves the reconstruction of the patient’s own valve into its original anatomy. Drawing parallels between valve replacement and repair, Azhari said the length of the patient’s recuperation is the same, about five to six days. Cost wise, both treatments are similar.
“Mitral valve repair in my hands is about 90 to 95% success rate,” said Azhari, but circumstances differ from patient to patient.
According to Azhari, he was one of the pioneers of the mitral valve repair technique in Malaysia, having performed it since 1992. He is also a leading opinion maker in the Asia Pacific where the field of cardiothoracic surgery is concerned.
When inquired about his passion in cardiothoracic surgery, he said he was drawn to it as it was often seen as among the most difficult surgeries to perform.
Pre-pandemic, Azhari conducted live surgery demonstrations in IJN as well as in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Kazakhstan.
Cumulatively, Azhari possesses over three decades of experience as a heart surgeon and it is safe to say that a patient’s heart is in good hands where his work is considered.