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Valve Replacement Surgery

Valve Replacement Surgery, What it is?

This is a type of heart surgery. It's sometimes called CABG ("cabbage"). There are 4 valves in the heart: the aortic value, mitral valve, tricuspid valve, and pulmonary valve. When any one of these because diseased or injured, it must be replaced immediately so as to minimize future cardio or pulmonary complications. The surgery reroutes, or "bypasses," blood around clogged arteries to improve blood flow and oxygen to the heart. In most cases, one of three replacement valves may be offered for valve replacement surgery: donor human heart valves, tissue heart valves from animals, or mechanical heart valves. Almost all valve replacement surgeries concern the aortic valve or the mitral valve.

Who Requires Valve Replacement Surgery?

Valve Replacement Surgeryis required by two types of patients, those who experience narrowing (stenosis) of the heart valve and those who experience leaking (regurgitation) in their heart valves. Heart valves may become diseased for a number of reasons, including: rheumatic fever, birth defects, calcification and certain medications. For younger patients, the mechanical valve is the most common replacement used since it tends to last longer than organic replacements. Animal or human donor valves are usually reserved for older patients.

The Valve Replacement Surgery Procedure

An expert cardiologist is required to perform valve replacement surgery. During cardiac valve repair or replacement surgery, your breastbone is divided in half to expose your heart. The surgery takes 3-4 hours during which the patient is sedated with general anesthesia. Your heart is then connected to a heart-lung machine which completely takes over the function of your heart and lungs, permitting the surgeon to temporarily stop your heart. A portion of your heart is then open, exposing the malfunctioning valve and the surgeon repairs or replaces it. Once the valve is fixed, the heart is closed. Your heart is then allowed to resume beating, it is disconnected from the heart-lung machine, and your breastbone is closed with wires. The operation usually takes from three to five hours. After the defective heart valve is replaced with the new one, the patient must reside in an intensive care unit for 2-3 days for observation. An additional week’s stay is usually required before the patient may be discharged. Light activity can resumed within a matter of days, while more strenuous exercise should be suspended until the patient has fully recovered.

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