Many patients with degenerative valve disease are ineligible for surgery because of their high-risk status (e.g., advanced age, multiple comorbidities or end-stage disease). For these patients, balloon valvuloplasty may be a viable alternative to open-heart surgery to reduce symptoms of the disease.

In balloon valvuloplasty, a catheter (thin, flexible tube) with a small, deflated balloon attached to the tip is threaded through a blood vessel. Once the catheter reaches the damaged valve, the balloon is inflated to stretch the valve opening and allow more blood to flow through it. The balloon is then deflated and guided back out through the vessel and removed.

The patient is generally awake during this procedure, and the recovery time is considerably shorter than with traditional surgery. However, balloon valvuloplasty is not a permanent solution and often has to be repeated at a later date.