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 flow through a heart valve.
These valves open up enough so that blood can flow through. They then close, keeping blood from flowing backward.
DescriptionBefore your surgery you will receive general anesthesia. You will be asleep and unable to feel pain.
In open surgery, the surgeon makes a large surgical cut in your breastbone to reach the heart and aorta. Most people are connected to a heart-lung bypass machine or bypass pump. Your heart is stopped while you are connected to this machine. This machine does the work of your heart while your heart is stopped.
Minimally invasive valve surgery is done through much smaller cuts than open surgery.
Several different techniques are used:
- Laparoscopy or endoscopy
- Percutaneous surgery (through the skin)
- Robot-assisted surgery
If your surgeon can repair your valve, you may have:
- Ring annuloplasty — The surgeon repairs the ring-like part around the valve by sewing a ring of metal, cloth, or tissue around the valve.
- Valve repair — The surgeon trims, shapes, or rebuilds one or more of the leaflets of the valve. The leaflets are flaps that open and close the valve.
If your valve is too damaged, you will need a new valve. This is called valve replacement surgery. Your surgeon will remove your valve and put a new one in place.
The main types of new valves are:
- Mechanical — made of man-made materials, such as metal (stainless steel or titanium) or ceramic. These valves last the longest, but you will need to take blood-thinning medicine, such as warfarin (Coumadin) or aspirin, for the rest of your life.
- Biological — made of human or animal tissue. These valves last 12 – 15 years, but you may not need to take blood thinners for life.
- In some cases, surgeons can use your own pulmonary valve to replace the damaged aortic valve. The pulmonary valve is then replaced with an artificial valve (this is called the Ross Procedure). This procedure is ideal for people who do not want to take blood thinners for the rest of their life.