Objective Recent studies have demonstrated improved outcomes in patients receiving early surgery for degenerative mitral regurgitation (MR) rather than adhering to conventional guidelines for surgical intervention. However, studies providing a mechanistic basis for these findings are limited. Methods Left ventricular (LV) myocardium from 22 patients undergoing mitral valve repair for American Heart Association class I indications was evaluated for desmin, the voltage-dependent anion channel, α-B-crystallin, and α, β-unsaturated aldehyde 4-hydroxynonenal by fluorescence microscopy. The same was evaluated in 6 normal control LV autopsy specimens. Cardiomyocyte ultrastructure was examined by transmission electron microscopy. Magnetic resonance imaging with tissue tagging was performed in 55 normal subjects and 22 MR patients before and 6 months after mitral valve repair. Results LV end-diastolic volume was 1.5-fold (P < .0001) higher and LV mass-to-volume ratio was lower in MR (P = .004) hearts versus normal hearts and showed improvement 6 months after mitral valve surgery. However, LV ejection fraction decreased from 65% ± 7% to 52% ± 9% (P < .0001) and LV circumferential (P < .0001) and longitudinal strain decreased significantly below normal values (P = .002) after surgery. Hearts with MR had a 53% decrease in desmin (P < .0001) and a 2.6-fold increase in desmin aggregates (P < .0001) versus normal, along with substantial, intense perinuclear staining of α, β-unsaturated aldehyde 4-hydroxynonenal in areas of mitochondrial breakdown and clustering. Transmission electron microscopy demonstrated numerous electron-dense deposits, myofibrillar loss, Z-disc abnormalities, and extensive granulofilamentous debris identified as desmin-positive by immunogold transmission electron microscopy. Conclusions Despite well-preserved preoperative LV ejection fraction, severe oxidative stress and disruption of cardiomyocyte desmin-mitochondrial sarcomeric architecture may explain postoperative LV functional decline and further supports the move toward earlier surgical intervention.