Heart is a pump distributing the blood to the whole body. It has a self-exciting muscle which has its own conduction and it is capable for rhythmic pulsations which occur simultaneously. It has a regulating center and 4 chambers separated by valves and a septum. The valves control blood flow direction during contractions and septum isolates the right and left circulation. These negative and positive pressures are responsible for creating contractions that pump blood throughout the body.
Heart Valve Surgery is performed with or without chest opening to replace or repair heart valves which are not working correctly. The aortic valve and the mitral valve are the most commonly replaced valves. The aortic valve separates the left ventricle heart’s main pumping chamber) and the aorta (the major artery that carries blood to patient’s body). The mitral valve separates the left atrium from the left ventricle.
What Are The Types Of Valve Problems?
Heart valve problems make the heart work too hard. There can be abnormalities in each of these structures may causes valve problems because of the birth defect, aging or certain diseases. Some patients are born with heart valve disease, while others develop it later in time. Heart valve disease that develops before birth is called congenital heart valve disease. These valves may not have enough tissue flaps, they may be the wrong size or shape, or they may lack an opening through which blood can flow properly.
Heart valves can have three basic kinds of problems:
- Regurgitation (valves don’t close properly or let blood leak where it shouldn’t)
- Stenosis (valves don’t open enough, don’t let enough blood to flow)
- Atresia (occurs if a heart valve lacks an opening for blood to pass through)
What Is A Valve Replacement Surgery Like?
In most cases, heart valve replacement is an open heart surgery. This means a surgeon opens patient’s chest. The new artificial valve is placed while removing the damaged one. In some cases, the valve can be replaced without a chest opening and it may require only a series of small incisions. The procedure chosen will depend on the complexity of the patient’s case that involves the valve that needs replacement, the symptoms and the risk of surgery.
The operation is conducted under general anesthesia. It can take 3 to 5 hours. Most of the time during the procedure, patient’s heart will be temporarily stopped, and they will be put on a lung/machine which takes over breathing and blood circulation. Alternatively, there are some procedures that may be performed on a beating heart.
What Happens After My Valve Replacement Surgery?
- Following the surgery, patient must spend some time in the intensive care unit (ICU) and medical stuff will closely monitor their recovery. After that, patients will be moved to a hospital room.
- In a one day or two, you will be able to sit up and walk around.
- Patients can expect spending 4-7 days in the hospital.
- Those who have had heart valve repair or replacement surgery (open heart surgery) can usually fly after 10-15 days (longer if they have had pulmonary complications and if it is a more complex case).