Background: Percutaneous balloon mitral valvuloplasty has been proposed as an alternative to open surgical commissurotomy for the treatment of rheumatic mitral-valve stenosis.
Methods: We enrolled 60 patients with severe mitral stenosis and favorable valvular anatomy in a prospective, randomized trial comparing the two procedures. All patients underwent cardiac catheterization before the procedure and one week, six months, and three years thereafter. Hemodynamic data were analyzed by investigators who were blinded to the patients' treatment assignments.
Results: Mitral-valve areas improved initially in both groups, from a mean (+/- SD) of 0.9 +/- 0.3 cm2 to 2.1 +/- 0.6 cm2 in the balloon-valvuloplasty group (30 patients; P < 0.01) and from 0.9 +/- 0.3 cm2 to 2.0 +/- 0.6 cm2 in the surgical group (30 patients; P < 0.001). Although improvement was maintained in both groups, mitral-valve areas were greater in the patients in the balloon-valvuloplasty group at three years (2.4 +/- 0.6 cm2, vs. 1.8 +/- 0.4 cm2 in the surgery group, P < 0.001). Restenosis occurred in three patients in the balloon-valvuloplasty group and four in the surgery group. One patient in the balloon-valvuloplasty group died of an apparent stroke after 2.5 years; four patients in the balloon-valvuloplasty group had residual atrial septal defects, and three patients (two in the balloon-valvuloplasty group and one in the surgery group) were judged to have severe mitral regurgitation. Seventy-two percent of the patients who underwent balloon valvuloplasty and 57 percent of the surgically treated patients were in New York Heart Association functional class I (i.e., they had no cardiovascular symptoms) at three years. No patient was lost to follow-up.
Conclusions: In the treatment of mitral stenosis, balloon valvuloplasty and open surgical commissurotomy have comparable initial results and low rates of restenosis, and both produce good functional capacity for at least three years. The potential complications associated with balloon valvuloplasty should be noted. The better hemodynamic results at three years, lower cost, and elimination of the need for thoracotomy suggest that balloon valvuloplasty should be considered for all patients with favorable mitral-valve anatomy.