A balloon valvuloplasty is minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure that we perform on children whose heart valves are narrow or obstructed. It helps improve blood flow to the lungs or body. Your child could potentially suffer from heart failure if their heart valves stay narrowed or obstructed. Since the mid-1980s, we’ve done hundreds of balloon valvuloplasty on children, from newborns to teenagers.
What is Balloon Valvuloplasty?
A balloon valvuloplasty is a very common procedure. The goal is to dilate and expand the heart valve leaflet opening to improve blood flow from the ventricle (pumping chamber) to the lungs or body.
A balloon is attached to a small, thin, flexible tube (called a catheter). Your doctor inserts the catheter into an artery or vein in your child's groin, and then guides the balloon catheter into position across the valve. The balloon is inflated to expand the valve tissue. Then, the balloon is deflated, and we take the balloon catheter out.
A balloon valvuloplasty is the first and most effective treatment option for children who have pulmonary valve stenosis or aortic valve stenosis.
What are the benefits of Balloon Valvuloplasty?
A balloon valvuloplasty allows us to make the heart valve function better without surgery. Most children recover quickly (within a few hours to a day) after the procedure.
What are the side effects of Balloon Valvuloplasty?
There might be bruising near the groin (where we inserted the catheter), but this should disappear within a few days. Most valvuloplasty procedures result in better blood flow and lowering of pumping chamber pressures toward normal but can cause leakage of the valve in about 30% of patients.
What are the risks of Balloon Valvuloplasty?
For children undergoing balloon valvuloplasty procedures, there are risks of valve leakage, bleeding from the catheter site, temporary abnormal heart rhythms, infection or even need for surgery if the procedure is not successful.
What to expect with Balloon Valvuloplasty
Our team of cardiologists, anesthesiologists and nurses at Children's Health℠ all work together to make this procedure go as smoothly as possible.
What to expect before Balloon Valvuloplasty
Usually, you’ve been referred to us by either another cardiologist or a pediatrician.
First, we’ll evaluate your child to make sure they are a good candidate for the procedure. If your child will benefit from the procedure, we’ll let you know what steps you need to take before the procedure and how to schedule follow-up appointments.
What to expect during Balloon Valvuloplasty
After checking in at the admitting office, you and your child will go to the pre-operative care unit where you will meet with the cardiologist, anesthesiologist and nurse. During this time, you can ask any questions you have before your child receives medication to help them sleep during the procedure.
Your child will then be taken to the catheterization laboratory. We’ll invite you to sit in the waiting room during the procedure. You can meet your child in the post-anesthesia care unit after the procedure is complete.
If your child has a pulmonary valve stenosis, the procedure should take about 90 minutes from start to finish. It will take about two hours if your child has an aortic valve stenosis.
Most children stay overnight in the hospital so we can make sure they aren’t having any post-procedure complications.
What to expect after Balloon Valvuloplasty
Once your child goes home, we want your child to avoid high-contact sports (such as football, hockey or rugby) for five to seven days after the procedure. Your child will require follow up with their cardiologist and outpatient echocardiogram evaluation following valvuloplasty to monitor the result.
How do I prepare my child for Balloon Valvuloplasty?
No matter what your child’s age, we’re here to help answer any questions.
If your child is younger than 10, we’ll have them meet with a child life specialist. A child life specialist will show them the balloon, how the procedure works (by demonstrating with a teddy bear) and will talk about how the procedure will help their heart function.
For pre-teens, we’ll show them pictures of what the procedure will look like. We also explain to children that even though this procedure will help their heart, they still need to come back and do follow-up appointments.
Teenagers tend to ask us more questions, such as, "How did this happen and why have I only known about it now?”, “I've been playing soccer all my life. Is this going to prevent me from doing that?", or “Can’t I do this when I’m older?” Teenagers want more details on the short-term and long-term benefits. That’s why we take our time to make sure they understand the risks (of not doing the procedure) and the benefits of the procedure.
What questions should I ask my provider about Balloon Valvuloplasty?
- How long will the procedure last?
- When can we expect the next procedure?
- When will my child be able to go to school and participate in sports?
Balloon Valvuloplasty Doctors and Providers
Thomas Zellers, MD Pediatric Cardiologist
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the balloon stay inside my child?
How long does a balloon valvuloplasty last?
About 85% of children with pulmonary valve stenosis will only need one balloon valvuloplasty. The other 15% of children may need a repeat procedure within a few years, but typically won’t need another one after that.
Aortic valve stenosis is different because it is a disease that gets worse over time. Most children with aortic valve stenosis will need a second procedure within 8 to 10 years after their first procedure. Up to 50% of these children will need another procedure which may involve a valve replacement by the time they’re in their 30s.