Valve Repair & Replacement
Why would you need a heart valve replacement?
The function of the four heart valves (aortic, mitral, tricuspid, and pulmonic) is to maintain unrestricted blood flow in a forward direction. When a valve becomes diseased, two things may happen; the valve may become too tight and restrict the passage of blood through it (stenosis) or the valve may not close properly so that blood leaks in a backward direction (regurgitation or insufficiency). If either of these situations is severe, surgical repair of the valve or replacement with a new valve is required. Sometimes, more than one valve is diseased, such that multiple valves may need to be repaired or replaced during the same operation. Repair of a heart valve involves a variety of techniques designed to alleviate stenosis and/or correct regurgitation. When possible, this is preferred over replacement. Our surgeons are skilled in performing all of the state-of-the-art techniques for repair of any of the four heart valves. However, when the valve becomes so severely damaged that repair is impossible, outright replacement of the valve is necessary.
In general, there are 2 kinds of valves used for heart valve replacement. Each type has advantages and disadvantages.
Biological valves, or tissue valves, are made from animal or human tissue (visit Edwards Life Sciences and/or Medtronic). In general, tissue valves do not require long-term anticoagulation (blood thinning medication). However, in young individuals these valves may have limited durability and thus may need to be re-replaced.
Mechanical valves are made from metal compounds such as stainless steel or pyrolytic carbon. They have great durability and will not wear out in your lifetime (Visit Visit St. Jude Medical). They do, however, require lifelong anticoagulation with blood thinning medication, and regular blood tests to monitor the medication. Without this medication, blood clots will form on these valves.
Our surgeons implant only those valves with the best track record in terms of safety, durability, and performance. Should you need a valve replacement, you and your surgeon will decide the best valve replacement option for you.
The recovery process varies for each individual. Your chest will be opened, needing time for your sternum to fuse back together and energy to return. You can expect to feel back to normal around 4-6 weeks. Your doctor will address your personal recommended activity level and post-operative care. Remember to listen to your body and take your recovery day by day; again, this is a different process for everyone. Be sure to follow up and attend your post-operative appointments after surgery.
Like all surgeries, it is important that you do what you can to go into surgery as healthy as possible. Eating healthy, taking walks within your limits and making sure your body is as prepared as possible may help ensure a speedy recovery.