Heart valve repair or replacement surgery is a treatment option for
heart valve disease. In heart valve disease, one or more of the four heart valves that keep
blood flowing in the correct direction through your heart doesn't
function properly. In heart valve surgery, your surgeon repairs or replaces
your heart valve.
Types of Heart Valve Surgery
Heart Valve Repair
Heart valve specialists and surgeons agree that whenever possible a heart
valve should be repaired rather than replaced. Heart valve repair leaves
you with your normally functioning tissue, which resists infection more
effectively, and you don't need to take blood-thinning medications
after the surgery.
If you have mild to moderate heart valve disease, your surgeon often performs
heart valve repair. If your heart valve isn't closing properly (regurgitation),
your surgeon may treat your condition using one of three surgeries.
Annuloplasty. In this procedure, your surgeon tightens the ring of tissue around the
valve to help the valve flaps (leaflets) come together. Sometimes your
surgeon will implant a ring where the leaflets meet to make the valve
opening smaller so the leaflets can come together.
Repair of structural support. In this procedure, your surgeon replaces or shortens the cords that support
the valves (chordae tendineae and papillary muscles) to repair the structural
support. When the cords and muscles are the right length, the valve leaflet
edges meet and eliminate the leak.
Valve leaflet repair. In valve leaflet repair, your surgeon surgically separates, cuts or pleats
a valve flap (leaflet) to repair a floppy or prolapsed valve leaflet.
Heart Valve Replacement
Surgery may be needed to replace diseased valves when symptoms are severe
or your health becomes compromised. After discussing the options and receiving
your input, the surgeon will determine which type of valve will be used
based on your age and condition:
- Bovine pericardial tissue valve (from cow tissue)
- Porcine valve (from pigs)
- Homograft valve (from deceased human donors)
Mechanical valve (artificial)
- With a mechanical valve, you will need anticoagulation therapy (blood thinners)
for life. This will prevent blood clots from forming around your mechanical valve.
Possible risks associated with heart valve repair or replacement surgery
include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Heart attack
- Irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
- Surgery needed for a new valve, in some instances, if the heart valve fails over time
While all open heart surgeries involve some risk, major complications are
rare because of improved technology and surgical techniques. Most heart
valve repair and replacement surgeries are successful. Be sure to discuss
any concerns with your doctor prior to the procedure.
Heart valve surgery can result in:
- Improved quality of life
- Prolonged life
- Reduced symptoms