Mitral Valve Surgery: Why We Operate on the Heart from the Right Side

The launch of our new minimally invasive mitral valve surgery print ad, which has appeared in many publications, including The Washington Post Magazine, has generated several e-mails and blog posts from people questioning the accuracy of the image, which features a chest with the incision location – under the right breast – highlighted.

Dr. James Gammie, a UMMC  cardiac surgeon who specializes in mitral valve repair, said patients are surprised to learn the incision site is under the right, and not the left, breast.

So what’s the story? The heart’s mitral valve is located in the center of the chest, and Dr. Gammie said the best way to approach the valve is through the upper chambers of the heart, which are on the right side of the chest.

Dr. Gammie also talks about his passion, and the benefits to patients, of repairing vs. replacing the mitral valve, which UMMC does more than 90 percent of the time. As for the comments about the incision location, he says he encourages patients to ask questions, and that the more informed patients are the better.

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