Heart Valve Replacement
Action Plan - Heart Valve Replacement
What is Heart Valve Replacement?
A heart (aortic) valve replacement is performed when the aortic valve is no longer able to open and let blood flow or regurgitates (leaks) blood when closed. The aortic valve is one of the main heart valves that’s located between the heart and the aorta, which is the main vessel that transports blood throughout the body.
Preparing for the Aortic Valve Replacement Procedure
You’ll be admitted on the night before or the morning of your heart valve replacement. Your hospital stay will be between five and seven days. You’ll need the following exams: blood work/biochemical analysis, chest x-ray and coronary angiography. Some patients will need a cardiac ultrasound and cardiac CT scan.
You must be in a fasting state as of midnight the night before your surgery. On the day of your surgery:
- A member of the surgical team will shave the required areas of your body
- You’ll be given medication to help you relax
- A nurse will apply a nasal cannula to administer oxygen
- The anesthesiologist will administer anesthesia
During the Heart Valve Replacement Procedure
For the aortic valve to be replaced, your heart has to stop beating for approximately one hour. A heart-lung machine will be used to circulate blood through your body during this time, and the native valve will be replaced with an artificial prosthesis. The artificial prosthesis is made from non-biological tissue (generally pyrolytic carbon), a type of highly resistant porcelain that can withstand several billion heart beats. Or, it can be made from biological tissue from a pig or a cow.
Following the Aortic Valve Procedure
You’ll be transferred to intensive care for 24 to 48 hours after your aortic valve surgery. Generally, you’ll be transferred back to the surgery unit for four or five days after that.
The recovery time after an aortic valve replacement is usually around three months. During this recovery period, patients can go back to their normal routines, minus strenous activities. Staying active is essential to your recovery.
After your heart valve replacement surgery, you may feel weak and lack energy. This will change as you recover and resume normal activities. You can discuss this and anything else you need to during your follow-up visit with your family doctor and cardiologist three months after your surgery.
For more information on heart valve surgery, visit HealthChoicesFirst.com.
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Heart valves can malfunction in two ways. They can be stuck in a more closed position, so the flow through the valve will be restricted. It can also be stuck in a more open way, in which case the blood can leak back through the valve.
The heart valves control the flow of blood by helping it move in one direction through your heart and body. If a valve isn’t working properly, this blood flow and the blood vessels that carry oxygen throughout the body are affected
Most commonly, heart valve replacement is a major open-heart surgery with a recovery of several weeks. During this procedure, the doctor makes an incision in the chest, and circulates blood outside of the body using a machine to add oxygen to it.
The newer procedure, which is a percutaneous valve procedure (otherwise known as a TAVI), is less invasive, but isn’t performed at as many hospitals.
The most common tissues used for heart valve replacement are cow tissue, made of the heart sac of the cow, or pig valve, and sometimes a combination of both. Other options are a cadaver valve, or transferring your own valve from another part of your heart.