Heart Valve Replacement Surgery

The heart is a pump made of muscle tissue. It has 4 pumping chambers: 2 upper chambers, called atria, and 2 lower chambers, called ventricles. Valves between each of the heart's pumping chambers keep blood flowing forward through the heart.

  • Tricuspid valve. Located between the right atrium and the right ventricle

  • Pulmonary valve. Located between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery

  • Mitral valve. Located between the left atrium and the left ventricle

  • Aortic valve. Located between the left ventricle and the aorta

When valves are damaged or diseased and do not work the way they should they may need to be repaired or replaced. Conditions that may cause heart valve dysfunction are valve stenosis (stiffness) and valve regurgitation (leaky valve).

When one (or more) valve(s) becomes stenotic (stiff), the heart has to work harder to pump the blood through the valve. Valves can become narrow and stiff from infection (such as rheumatic fever or staph) and ageing. If one or more valves become leaky, blood leaks backwards, which means less blood is pumped in the right direction. Based on your symptoms and the overall condition of your heart, your healthcare provider may decide that the diseased valve(s) needs to be surgically repaired or replaced

Traditionally, open-heart surgery is used to repair or replace heart valves. This means that a large incision is made in the chest and the heart stopped for a time so that the surgeon can repair or replace the valve(s). Newer, less invasive techniques have been developed to replace or repair heart valves. Minimally invasive procedures make smaller incisions and mean less pain afterwards and shorter hospital stays.

The diseased valve may be repaired using a ring to support the damaged valve, or the entire valve may be removed and replaced by an artificial valve. Artificial valves may be made of carbon coated plastic or tissue (made from animal valves or human valves taken from donors).

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How do I get ready for heart valve repair or replacement surgery?

  • Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure and you can ask questions.
  • You will be asked to sign a consent form that gives your permission to do the surgery. Read the form carefully and ask questions if anything is unclear.

  • Along with a complete medical history, your healthcare provider may do a complete physical exam to make sure that you are in otherwise good health before surgery. You may need blood tests or other diagnostic tests.

  • You will be asked to fast (not eat or drink) for 8 hours before the procedure, generally after midnight.

  • If you are pregnant or think you could be, tell your healthcare provider.

  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are sensitive to or are allergic to any medicines, iodine, latex, tape, or anaesthetic agents (local and general).

  • Be sure your healthcare provider knows about all medicines (prescription and over-the-counter), vitamins, herbs, and supplements that you are taking.

  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have a history of bleeding disorders or if you are taking any anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medicine, aspirin, or other medicines that affect blood clotting. You may be told to stop some of these medicines before surgery.

  • Your healthcare provider may do a blood test before surgery to see how long it takes your blood to clot.

  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have a pacemaker or any other implanted cardiac devices.

  • If you smoke, stop smoking as soon as possible. This improves your chances for a successful recovery from surgery and benefits your overall health status.

  • Based on your medical condition, your healthcare provider may request other specific preparation.

Source: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/cardiovascular/heart_valve_repair_or_replacement_surgery_92,p07975

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