Heart valve replacement surgery is used to repair or replace a valve that is too narrow or does not close properly. Valves must function efficiently to help blood flow in the proper direction through your heart. Options for heart valve surgery include open, minimally invasive, and vein access to your heart. Depending on the surgery, recovery takes one to two months.
Heart valve replacement: Overview
Heart valve replacement repairs or replaces one or more of your heart’s four valves. Your valves, located between your heart’s four chambers, keep your blood flowing properly. When your valves are working correctly, blood should flow in only one direction through your heart each time it beats.
Valves function as doors, opening and closing with each heartbeat allowing blood to flow in and out of the chambers. Some blood may return to the chamber or space it just left when a valve fails. Sometimes, a valve may narrow, preventing blood from flowing forward. This issue can be problematic because it prevents your heart from functioning properly.
Your four heart valves are as follows:
- Tricuspid valve: Allows oxygen-depleted blood to flow from the right atrium (upper chamber) to the right ventricle (lower chamber).
- Pulmonary: Allows oxygen-depleted blood to flow from your right ventricle (lower chamber) to your pulmonary artery, which transports blood to your lungs for oxygenation.
- Mitral valve: Allows oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to move from the left atrium (upper chamber) to the left ventricle (lower chamber).
- Aortic: Allows oxygen-rich blood to flow from your left ventricle (lower chamber) to your aorta, which distributes blood throughout your body.
Heart valve replacement types
There are two types of heart valve surgery available:
- Valve repair surgery can repair a damaged or faulty valve while retaining much of the patient’s tissue. The mitral valve is the most frequently repaired, but repair surgery can also treat aortic and tricuspid valve problems.
- Valve replacement surgery can replace the faulty valve with a biological (pig, cow, or human tissue) or mechanical (metal or carbon) valve. Because all valve replacements are biocompatible, your immune system will not reject your new valve.
You will undergo tests to determine your valve disease’s location, type, and extent. The results will aid in choosing the best kind of treatment for you.
Is it possible for a heart valve to repair itself?
A heart valve cannot heal itself. Valve disease is not curable as it worsens over time. As the disease progresses, you will experience more symptoms, and your overall health will suffer. These changes are often gradual, but they can also be sudden.
Depending on the type and severity of your valve disease, you may be able to take the medication in the short term. A surgical procedure is the only beneficial long-term remedy, and your healthcare provider will advise you when that time has come.
When is heart valve surgery required?
You could have been born with a valve issue or developed a leak, stiffness, or narrowing in your valve.
If you have the following symptoms of heart valve disease, you might require treatment.
- Pain in the chest
- Breathing difficulties
What occurs before heart valve surgery?
- The day before your surgery, you may have a chest X-ray, echocardiogram, and electrocardiogram (EKG). Other tests may be performed, including a CT scan, a heart cath, and lab tests.
- The area where your physician will be working will be shaved and cleaned by a healthcare provider.
- On the day of your surgery, do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
- Consult your doctor about which prescription drugs you can consider taking before surgery.
What happens during heart valve replacement surgery?
- You will be given medicine via IV in your arm or hand, allowing you to sleep deeply and painlessly.
- Your surgeon will make a minor incision in the chest area during your surgery.
- It is possible that during surgery, your heart and lungs will be taken care of by a life support machine.
- Your surgeon will either replace or repair your heart valve, depending on your procedure.
Options for heart valve surgery include:
Traditional or open heart surgery:
A 6-8 inch incision through your breastbone.
Heart valve surgery with minimally invasive techniques:
A narrower incision (3-4 inches or smaller). Endoscopic or keyhole approaches (also known as port access, thoracoscopic, or video-assisted surgery) and robotic-assisted surgery are examples of techniques.
Your healthcare provider will perform the procedure without cutting your chest by inserting a catheter into a larger artery, such as the femoral artery in your groin.
What happens after a heart valve replacement procedure?
Following surgery, your healthcare team may transfer you to an intensive care unit (ICU) to closely monitor you. You’ll then be in a regular room. You could be hospitalised for five to seven days.
The attached machines will monitor your blood pressure and heart rate. The surgeon may also drain fluids through tubes in your chest.
Your doctor will advise you to eat, drink, and walk immediately after surgery. You can begin by taking short strolls around your room or down the hall and gradually increase your distance.
What are the benefits of heart valve replacement surgery?
Heart valve surgery can help relieve your symptoms, extend your life, and prevent death.
The following are some of the potential benefits of heart valve repair over valve replacement:
- Reduced infection risk.
- There is less need for anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medication for the rest of one’s life.
- The most common minimally invasive procedure is valve surgery, which includes valve repair and replacement.
The following are some of the advantages of minimally invasive surgery:
- Reduced infection risk.
- There is less bleeding and trauma.
- Reduced hospital stay.
- Recovery time is reduced.
How long is my valve going to last?
Several factors that determine the duration of your valve repair or replacement include:
- Whether you need a heart valve repaired or replaced.
- The type of valve you’ve installed (for heart valve replacement).
- Mechanical valves rarely fail, but they may need to be replaced if a blood clot, infection, or tissue growth prevents them from working correctly. Biological valves, especially if you’re young, may need to be replaced.
A message from the Heartscope Specialist Group
After discussing it with you, your surgeon will select the best choice for your heart valve surgery. Once you’ve decided on the type of surgery, you can enlist the help and support of family and friends. Healthy lifestyle choices can aid in the management of heart disease. Get practical tips and advice on how to get healthy from the Heartscope Specialist Group. You are alone in this; visit the Heartscope Specialist Group to find valuable services to assist you.