Heart Surgery Through the Leg

Beautiful legs on white

You may have never thought you could have heart surgery through your leg, but it’s possible. The heart sends blood throughout the body by way of veins, arteries, and capillaries. These blood vessels allow blood to flow to each part of the body, giving the organs and other structures the necessary amount of blood and oxygen it needs to function. Blood vessels even go down into the legs and connect to the heart. It is sometimes easier to fix heart problems by way of the legs because the procedure is less invasive than opening the heart. Heart surgery through the leg is typically used to fix heart valve problems.

There are four valves in the heart. They assist with blood flow. The valves sit between the chambers of the heart and may also be found in between the arteries connected to those chambers. Blood is supposed to flow in one direction. Whenever the valves of the heart malfunction, they may cause heart damage. The valves of the heart are susceptible to a few problems. Either they do not open completely, making them too narrow to allow blood flow, or they do not close completely which leads to regurgitation. As you age, it is possible for calcium to build up on the valves which also causes the valves to function improperly by not opening or closing as they should. Both issues cause heart problems.

Valve Malfunction

When the valves do not function properly, they make the heart work harder. The body doesn’t receive the necessary amount of blood or oxygen. The heart now has to pump more blood for the body to get what it needs. You may begin to feel fatigue and experience shortness of breath. The persistent overworking of the heart leads to heart failure. It is important to get heart valve problems solved quickly before it damages the heart.

Heart surgery may seem extremely scary. When you think of heart surgery, you probably imagine the chest cavity being opened and surgery being long and extensive. When it comes to heart valve repair and replacement, open heart surgery is not necessary. Surgery is now done through the leg. It is extremely beneficial for elderly patients. The surgery is minimally invasive, and hospital stay is much shorter. You are also in surgery for less time. With open heart surgery, you have a lot of pain and discomfort afterwards. Surgery through the leg makes for a short recovery period and less discomfort.


Benefits of heart surgery through the leg are endless. There are fewer complications. When you stay in the hospital longer, you are at a greater risk of infections and bedsores. There is also a minimal chance of stroke. During open heart surgery, lack of blood flow to the brain can lead to stroke. Heart surgery through the leg does not require any bypasses, so the heart continues to beat normally. Follow up after surgery is also better.

Surgery is performed with a catheter. The catheter is placed into the leg through a blood vessel. The catheter travels through the circulatory system to the malfunctioning valve. The replacement valve is carried in the catheter. Once the catheter reaches its final destination, the catheter expands the valve with a tiny balloon that causes it to lock into place. Instead of removing the other valve, the new valve pushes the old one against the walls of the aorta. It only requires two hours and local anesthesia. Recovery after surgery is only weeks not months like normal open heart surgery. This method does not only replace heart valves but can also repair them. In cases where the mitral valve is involved, an E-valve can be used to fix regurgitation. This process is also performed by way of the leg.

If you are experiencing heart-related issues such as chest pain, fatigue or shortness of breath, make an appointment with your physician. Through your exam, they may notice an irregular heartbeat which can be a result of a valve problem. An echocardiogram will confirm the diagnosis. If it is a valve issue, do not be alarmed, open heart surgery is not necessary. Ask about surgery through your leg. In most cases, a doctor will suggest this, especially if you are elderly or have other health issues.

Heart surgery through the leg is a fairly new procedure. It was first performed in Europe in 2002. It wasn’t until 2005 that it was performed in the US. Since then is has become the preferred method for valve repair and replacement surgery. The benefits of the surgery compared to open heart surgery are extensive. Who would have thought you could have heart surgery without opening the heart. As technology progresses, things will continue to improve. You just never know what new methods may be created tomorrow.


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