Blood flows out of your heart and into a large blood vessel called the aorta. The aortic valve connects the heart and aorta. The aortic valve opens so blood can flow out. It then closes to keep blood from returning to the heart.
You may need aortic valve surgery to replace the aortic valve in your heart if:
The aortic valve can be replaced using:
Balloon valvuloplasty; Mini-thoracotomy aortic valve replacement or repair; Cardiac valvular surgery; Mini-sternotomy; Robotically-assisted endoscopic aortic valve replacement
Before your surgery you will receive general anesthesia.
You will be asleep and pain-free.
There are several ways to do minimally invasive aortic valve surgery. Techniques include thoracoscopy or endoscopy, robot-assisted surgery, and percutaneous surgery.
You may need to be on a heart-lung machine for all of these surgeries.
If your aortic valve is too damaged, you will need a new valve. This is called replacement surgery. Your surgeon will remove your aortic valve and sew a new one into place. There are two main types of new valves:
In some cases, you will have coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG), or surgery to replace part of the aorta at the same time.
Once the new valve is working, your surgeon will:
The surgery may take 3 - 6 hours.
Aortic valve surgery can also be done through a groin artery. No cuts are made on your chest. The doctor sends a catheter (tube) to the valve. The catheter has with a balloon on the end. The balloon is inflated to stretch the opening of the valve. This procedure is called percutaneous valvuloplasty. A catheter can be used to place a new valve in some cases.
Aortic valve surgery is done when the valve does not work properly. Surgery may be done for these reasons:
A minimally invasive procedure has many benefits. There is less pain, blood loss, and risk of infection. You will also recover faster than you would from open heart surgery.
Percutaneous valvuloplasty and catheter-based valve replacement are done only in patients who are too sick for major heart surgery. The results of percutaneous valvuloplasty are not long-lasting.
Risks for any anesthesia are:
Other risks vary by the patient's age. Some of these risks are:
Always tell your doctor or nurse:
You may be able to store blood in the blood bank for transfusions during and after your surgery. Ask your surgeon about how you and your family members can donate blood.
For the 2-week period before surgery, you may be asked to stop taking medicines that make it harder for your blood to clot. These might cause increased bleeding during the surgery.
During the days before your surgery:
Prepare your house for when you get home from the hospital.
Shower and wash your hair the day before surgery. You may need to wash your body below your neck with a special soap. Scrub your chest 2 or 3 times with this soap. You also may be asked to take an antibiotic to prevent infection.
The day before your surgery, shower and shampoo well. You may be asked to wash your whole body below your neck with a special soap. Scrub your chest 2 or 3 times with this soap. You also may be asked to take an antibiotic, to prevent infection.
On the day of your surgery:
After your operation, you will spend 3 - 7 days in the hospital. You will spend the first night in an intensive care unit (ICU). Nurses will monitor your condition at all times.
Most of the time, you will be moved to a regular room or a transitional care unit in the hospital within 24 hours. You will start activity slowly. You may begin a program to make your heart and body stronger.
You may have two or three tubes in your chest to drain fluid from around your heart. Most of the time, these are taken out 1 to 3 days after surgery.
You may have a catheter (flexible tube) in your bladder to drain urine. You may also have intravenous (IV) lines for fluids. Nurses will closely watch monitors that display your vital signs (pulse, temperature, and breathing). You will have daily blood tests and EKGs to test your heart function until you are well enough to go home.
A temporary pacemaker may be placed in your heart if your heart rhythm becomes too slow after surgery.
Once you are home, recovery takes time. Take it easy, and be patient with yourself.
Mechanical heart valves do not fail often. However, blood clots can develop on them. If a blood clot forms, you may have a stroke. Bleeding can occur, but this is rare.
Biological valves have a lower risk of blood clots, but tend to fail over time. Minimally invasive heart valve surgery has improved in recent years. These techniques are safe for most people and can reduce recovery time and pain. For best results, choose to have your aortic valve surgery at a center that does many of these procedures.
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Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP et al. Valvular heart disease. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 66.
Coeytaux RR, Williams JW Jr., Gray RN, Wang A. Percutaneous heart valve replacement for aortic stenosis: state of the evidence. Ann Intern Med. 2010;153:314-324.
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