The heart has four valves, which open and close to regulate the flow of blood through different parts of the heart, as well as ensuring that it only travels in one direction. The aortic and mitral valves are on the left side of the heart and the pulmonary and tricuspid valves are on the right.
If a heart valve surgery is required to restore the flow of blood through these valves a patient will either have their valve(s) repaired or replaced.
Valve replacement surgery is the replacement of one or more of the heart valves with either an artificial heart valve, which can be made from a combination of metal and carbon (a mechanical valve) or a ‘bioprosthesis’ (a valve that is made from animal tissues or a human cadaver). If a valve can be repaired this may involve separating fused flaps, removing, reshaping or adding tissue.
Since heart valves regulate the blood flow, each valve is supposed to close completely after ushering in blood flow. Diseased heart valves don’t do the job so well.
Stenosis causes less than normal amount of blood to flow to the heart, causing muscle to work harder. Further leaky valves can pose a problem too. In this valve remains slightly open, letting blood flow backwards. This heart valve condition is called regurgitation. Here are some signs of heart valve disease:
Heart valve repair is the usual solution to these conditions. But due to excess damage to the heart valve in some patients, total replacement of the heart valve is the only option.
Aortic Valve Replacement - You may need surgery on your aortic valve if you have a congenital defect or disease that causes stenosis or regurgitation. A study found that aortic valve replacement surgery has a 94 percent five-year survival rate.
Mitral Valve Replacement – Mitral valve serves as an inflow valve and its job is to allow blood from the left atrium to flow into the left ventricle. The defective valve needs to be replaced with either a metal artificial valve or a biological valve. The five-year survival rate is about 91 percent.
Double Valve Replacement - A double valve replacement is a replacement of both the mitral and the aortic valve. This type of surgery is not as common as the others.
Pulmonary Valve Replacement - The need for pulmonary valve replacement is usually due to stenosis, which restricts blood flow. Stenosis may be caused by a congenital defect, infection, or carcinoid syndrome.
Usually a heart valve replacement surgery patient stays in hospital for 5-7 days. If your surgery was minimally invasive, you might be able to go home earlier.
Full recovery may take a few weeks or up to several months, depending on your rate of healing and type of surgery undergone. Infection is the primary risk factor directly after surgery. So always contact your cardiac surgeon or heart specialist right away if you have symptoms that indicate infection.
Follow-up appointments are highly important and will help your consultant determine when you’re ready to resume your everyday activities. Ask your family members and friends to help you out with small tasks in the house and drive you to medical appointment.