Stanford Health Care Best in the West for Mitral Valve Repair Surgery

Stanford Medicine
August 19, 2021

Joseph Woo, MD, is a nationally recognized cardiothoracic surgeon and leading researcher in new approaches to cardiovascular care.  He is the chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The American Heart Association and the Mitral Foundation have recognized Stanford Health Care as one of the top ten U.S. hospitals for mitral valve repair surgery.  Stanford Health Care is the only hospital in the West to receive the Mitral Valve Repair Reference Center award, a collaborative recognition program of the AHA and Mitral Foundation.*

The award recognizes best practices in mitral valve repair to treat severe mitral valve prolapse. The two organizations established the designation to provide objective data to encourage more patients to receive valve repair rather than mitral valve replacement.  It also guides referring physicians to the best options for their patience with mitral valve problems.

Stanford Health Care is the only hospital in the western U.S. to receive the Mitral Valve Repair Reference Center Award by the American Heart Association and Mitral Foundation for mitral valve repair surgery.

Mitral Valve Repair Recommended Over Replacement

The most recent clinical guidelines from the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association recommend mitral valve repair over replacement whenever possible.  Compared to valve repair, valve replacement can be associated with higher mortality rates and long-term complications. **

Valve replacement has other drawbacks, too. Patients implanted with mechanical valves need to take blood thinners for the rest of their lives. Younger patients who receive a tissue valve replacement typically must undergo a second heart surgery within 10 to 20 years because the valves wear out.  Each subsequent procedure creates scarring that complicates further surgeries.

”I would estimate that at least one-quarter of the thousands of cases across the country involving patients with severely defective mitral valve prolapse, which could technically be repaired, are either having the valve replaced or not operated on at all, “ said Joseph Woo, MD, professor and chair of cardiothoracic surgery at Stanford Medicine and the Norman E. Shumway Professor.

While not all medical centers have surgeons trained in performing mitral valve repair, Stanford Health Care does.

Superior Clinical Outcomes in Mitral Valve Repair

Mitral valve repair is a challenging operation to perform. The surgeon must rebuild the heart tissue so that the mitral valve’s leaflets close, preventing regurgitation.  As Woo explained, “You have to build a little bit of structure, some internal architecture. It’s both art and engineering. You have to fix it so the leaflet flaps meet up exactly, perfectly.”

It’s designation as a Mitral Valve Repair Reference Center affirms that Stanford Health Care has demonstrated a record of superior clinical outcomes.  The award also denote Stanford Health Care’s ongoing commitment to reporting and measuring quality and outcome metrics specific to mitral valve repairs.

“Now, with these new designations, physicians can have added confidence in referring patients to a center like ours with expertise to do these complex repairs,”  Woo said.

For more information, visit the Stanford Health Care Heart Surgery Clinic website. To refer a patient, call 650-724-7500 or email

*American heart Association. First medical centers earn new recognition for best practices in heart valve repair. Published online December 16, 2020.  Accessed April 2, 2021.

** Nishimura RA, Otto CM, Bonow RO, et al.  2017 AHA/ACC Focused Update of the 2014 AHA/ACC Guideline for the Management of Patients With Valvular Heart Disease: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines

Joseph Woo, MD