Heart valve surgery is a procedure to treat heart valve disease. In heart valve disease, one or more of the four heart valves that keep blood flowing in the correct direction through your heart doesn't function properly.
Some valves become narrowed, or stenosed (aortic valve stenosis), and block the flow of the blood through them. Others can become leaky or regurgitant - allowing blood to flow backwards through them after the heart pumps it out into the body. In heart valve surgery, your surgeon repairs or replaces one or more heart valves.
Heart valve diseases that may be treated by heart valve surgery include:
• Aortic valve disease
• Mitral valve disease
• Pulmonary valve disease
• Tricuspid valve disease
Heart valve surgery can result in:
• Improved quality of life
• Prolonged life
• Reduced symptoms
While all open heart surgeries involve some risk, major complications are rare because of improved technology and surgical techniques. Most heart valve repair and replacement surgeries are successful.
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Complications could include:
• Heart attack
• Irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
• Surgery needed for a new valve, in some instances, if the heart valve fails over time
At the Louis & Peaches Owens Heart Hospital, heart (cardiac) surgeons work together with heart specialists (cardiologists) and other specialists to coordinate your care. Surgeons perform complex heart valve surgeries, including surgeries for people who have high surgical risks or who have had heart valve surgery previously.
Valve Repair and Replacement
During valve repair, parts of a stenotic valve that are stiff or hardened may be cut and separated to help them open wider. Parts of an insufficient valve may be strengthened and shortened to help the valve close more tightly.
If a valve can't be repaired, it may be replaced with a prosthetic valve. Two kinds of prosthetic heart valves are available:
• Mechanical valves are created from manmade materials. Lifetime therapy with anticoagulant medication, to prevent blood clots on or around the valve, is necessary when these types of valves are used.
• Biological (tissue) valves are taken from pig, cow, or human donors. Biological valves don't last as long as mechanical valves. However, when biological valves are used, long-term therapy with anticoagulant medication often isn't necessary.
You and your doctor can discuss which type of valve is best for you. Factors considered are your age, your occupation, the size of your valve, how well your heart is working, your heart's rhythm, your ability to take anticoagulant medications, and how many new valves you need.
Life After Valve Surgery
Valve surgery may give your heart the boost it needs so you feel better. Feeling better can let you get back to doing the things you enjoy. After your surgery, take care of yourself and your heart to keep your new valve working right. For many people, this includes taking medications called anticoagulants every day. Your doctor will talk to you about these medications and other things you can do to help keep your heart valves healthy in the future.