Possible aetiological factors, presentation, and management were reviewed in 18 patients with posterior left ventricular rupture complicating mitral valve replacement seen at one centre over six and a half years. The patients were elderly (mean age 57), predominantly women (16 of the 18), and suffering from mitral stenosis. Rupture was much more common after isolated replacement of the mitral valve (16 out of 797 operations) than after double valve replacement (one out 236) or mitral valve replacement and coronary artery bypass graft (one out of 70). A total of 1221 mitral valve replacements were performed over this period, with an overall incidence of rupture of 1.47%. Damage to the valve annulus occurred five times. On four occasions haemorrhage followed a vigorous response to a bolus dose of an inotrope. With the exception of these features, it was difficult to define specific risk factors. Eleven patients bled while still in theatre; one of them survived long term and another four lived for four to 10 days. Repair after restarting cardiopulmonary bypass made short term survival much more likely. In seven rupture developed after return to the intensive therapy unit; again only one survived long term. In nearly all cases bleeding was at, or just below, the atrioventricular groove. Rupture probably occurs after endocardial damage to a thin myocardium that has lost the internal buttress of the subvalvar apparatus. With the rise in intraventricular pressure at the end of bypass blood dissects into the myocardium, resulting in a large haematoma and eventual rupture.
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