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 aging. 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 afterward 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). You and your healthcare provider will talk about the pros and cons of each type and what might be best for you.
Heart valve surgery may be needed if your condition is getting worse, your condition is severe or you're experiencing signs and symptoms of valve dysfunction.
Your doctor may evaluate you to determine the most appropriate treatment for your condition. If you're not experiencing signs or symptoms, or your condition is mild, your doctor may suggest monitoring your condition over time. He or she may recommend healthy lifestyle changes. You may be prescribed medications to manage any symptoms.
However, your valve may eventually need to be repaired or replaced. In some cases, doctors may recommend heart valve repair or replacement even if you're not experiencing symptoms. If you need heart surgery for another condition, doctors may conduct surgery to repair or replace the affected heart valve at the same time.
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The life expectancy after valve replacement varies with age, but life-table analyses of large datasets suggest the average life-expectancy of a 60 year old after aortic valve replacement is about 12 years.
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An aortic valve replacement involves removing a faulty or damaged valve and replacing it with a new valve made from synthetic materials or animal tissue. It's a major operation that isn't suitable for everyone and can take a long time to recover from.
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An aortic valve replacement is a big operation and, like any type of surgery, carries a risk of complications. Some of the main risks of an aortic valve replacement include: wound, lung, bladder or heart valve infections. blood clots.
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Valve repair or replacement is generally safe. However, as with any surgery or procedure, complications can occur, possible risks of heart valve repair or replacement surgery include: Bleeding during or after the surgery. Blood clots that can cause heart attack, stroke, or lung problems.
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