Heart valve surgery is used to repair or replace diseased heart valves.
Blood that flows between different chambers of your heart must flow through a heart valve. Blood that flows out of your heart into large arteries must also flow through a heart valve.
These valves open up enough so that blood can flow through. They then close, keeping blood from flowing backward.
There are four valves in your heart:
- Aortic valve
- Mitral valve
- Tricuspid valve
- Pulmonic valve
The aortic valve is the most common valve to be replaced because it cannot be repaired. The mitral valve is the most common valve to be repaired. Only rarely is the tricuspid valve or the pulmonic valve repaired or replaced.
Why the Procedure is Performed
You may need surgery if your valve does not work properly.
- A valve that does not close all the way will allow blood to leak backwards. This is called regurgitation.
- A valve that does not open fully will limit forward blood flow. This is called stenosis.
You may need heart valve surgery for these reasons:
- Defects in your heart valve are causing major heart symptoms, such as chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, fainting spells (syncope), or heart failure.
- Tests show that the changes in your heart valve are beginning to seriously affect your heart function.
- Your doctor wants to replace or repair your heart valve at the same time as you are having open heart surgery for another reason, such as a coronary artery bypass graft surgery.
- Your heart valve has been damaged by infection (endocarditis).
- You have received a new heart valve in the past and it is not working well, or you have other problems such as blood clots, infection, or bleeding.
Some of the heart valve problems treated with surgery are:
- Aortic insufficiency
- Aortic stenosis
- Congenital heart valve disease
- Mitral regurgitation – acute
- Mitral regurgitation – chronic
- Mitral stenosis
- Mitral valve prolapse
- Pulmonary valve stenosis
- Tricuspid regurgitation
- Tricuspid valve stenosis
After the Procedure
Your recovery after the procedure will depend on the type of valve surgery you are having:
- Aortic valve surgery – minimally invasive
- Aortic valve surgery – open
- Mitral valve surgery – minimally invasive
- Mitral valve surgery – open
The average hospital stay is 5 – 7 days. The nurse will tell you how to care for yourself at home. Complete recovery will take a few weeks to several months, depending on your health before surgery.
The success rate of heart valve surgery is high. The operation can relieve your symptoms and prolong your life.
Mechanical heart valves do not often fail. Artificial valves last an average of 8 – 20 years, depending on the type of valve. However, blood clots can develop on these valves. If a blood clot forms, you may have a stroke. Bleeding can occur, but this is rare.
There is always a risk of infection. Talk to your doctor before having any type of medical procedure.
The clicking of mechanical heart valves may be heard in the chest. This is normal.