by Internet Medical Society
What is heart valve repair or replacement surgery?
Heart valve repair or replacement surgery is done when the valves gets damaged or diseased and do not work the way they should. The valve stenosis or stiffness and valve regurgitation or leaky valve are conditions that may cause heart valve dysfunction. Your health care provider may decide that the diseased valve(s) needs to be surgically repaired or replaced based on your symptoms and the overall condition of your heart. Traditionally, open heart surgery is used to repair or replace heart valves. A large incision will be made in the chest during the open heart surgery and the heart is stopped so that the surgeon can repair or replace the valve(s). While newer, less invasive techniques such as minimally invasive procedure involves making smaller incision with less pain and shorter hospital stay to replace or repair heart valves. The diseased valve is repaired using a ring supporting the damaged valve or the entire valve is removed and replaced with an artificial valve. Artificial valves may be made of plastic or tissue made from the animal valves or human valves taken from donors.
Why might I need heart valve repair or replacement surgery?
Valve repair or replacement surgery is need to correct the problems caused by one or more diseased heart valves. Your healthcare provider may recommend heart valve repair or replacement surgery for other reasons too.
What are the risks of heart valve repair or replacement surgery?
The risks related to the heart valve repair or replacement surgery are:
How do I get ready for heart valve repair or replacement surgery?
Your healthcare provider will explain the about the heart valve repair or replacement surgery and give you a chance to ask any questions about the procedure. Your healthcare provider may perform a complete physical exam to make sure that you are in good health before surgery along with a complete medical history. You need to undergo few blood tests or other diagnostic tests. Inform your doctor if you are pregnant or you think you might be pregnant. Do not eat or drink for eight hours before the procedure generally after midnight. Tell your healthcare provider if you are allergic to any medications, latex, iodine, tape, or anesthetic agents. Ensure to tell your healthcare provider about all the medications that you are currently taking.
Update your doctor if in case you have a history of bleeding disorders or take any anticoagulant or blood-thinning medications, aspirin, or other medications which affect the blood clotting. You may need to stop some of these medications before surgery. Stop smoking to improve your chances for a successful recovery from surgery and this will also be beneficial for your overall health status.
What happens during heart valve repair or replacement surgery?
During the heart valve repair or replacement surgery, the surgeon opens your chest to get to your heart and the problem valve. You will be asleep and will feel no pain. Your heart will be temporarily stopped and you'll be put on a heart/lung machine which takes over your breathing and blood circulation. On the other hand, there are few procedures that may be performed on a beating heart. A minimally invasive technique may also be an option to replace heart valves. These may potentially reduce pain, scarring, and your recovery time.
What happens after heart valve repair or replacement surgery?
Your heart will be beating on its own when your heart valve has been replaced and the surgery is completed. All the incisions will be sewn or stapled closed after the heart repair or replacement surgery. Following the surgery, you will need to spend some time in the intensive care unit (ICU), wherein you will be closely monitored to ensure that there are no complications. After that you will be moved to another room where your family and friends will be able to visit you. You may be allowed to go home and a follow-up visit with the doctor will be scheduled.
Once you are at home it is vital to keep the surgical area clean and dry. Your doctor will provide you with given specific bathing instructions. During a follow-up office visit the sutures or surgical staples will be removed. Do not drive until your doctor’s instructions. Restrictions on other activity may apply.
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