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Heart valve surgery

Contents of this page:


Heart, section through the middle
Heart, section through the middle
Heart, front view
Heart, front view
Heart valves - anterior view
Heart valves - anterior view
Heart valves - superior view
Heart valves - superior view
Heart valve surgery - series
Heart valve surgery - series

Alternative Names    Return to top

Valve replacement; Valve repair; Heart valve prosthesis

Definition    Return to top

Heart valve surgery is used to repair or replace diseased heart valves.

Description    Return to top

There are four valves in your heart:

  1. Aortic valve
  2. Mitral valve
  3. Tricuspid valve
  4. Pulmonary valve

The valves control the direction of blood flow through your heart. The opening and closing of the heart valves produce the sound of the heartbeat.

Heart valve surgery is open-heart surgery that is done while you are under general anesthesia. A cut is made through the breast bone (sternum). Your blood is routed away from your heart to a heart-lung bypass machine. This machine keeps the blood circulating while your heart is being operated on.

Valves may be repaired or replaced. Replacement heart valves are either natural (biologic) or artificial (mechanical):

If you receive an artificial valve, you may need to take lifelong medication to prevent blood clots. Natural valves rarely require lifelong medication.

Why the Procedure is Performed    Return to top

Heart valve surgery may be recommended for the following conditions:

Valve problems may be caused by:

Defective valves may cause congestive heart failure and infections (infective endocarditis).

Risks    Return to top

The risks for any anesthesia include:

The risks for any surgery include:

The risks for cardiac surgery include:

It is very important to take steps to prevent valve infections. You may need to take antibiotics indefinitely, or before dental work and other invasive procedures.

After the Procedure    Return to top

The success rate of heart valve surgery is high. The operation can relieve your symptoms and prolong your life.

The death rate averages 2% to 5%, depending on the heart valve. About 2 of every 3 patients who received an artificial mitral valve are still alive 9 years after the surgery.

The clicking of the mechanical heart valve may be heard in the chest. This is normal.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

You will stay in an intensive care unit for the first 2 or 3 days following the operation. Your heart functions will be monitored constantly. The average hospital stay is 1 - 2 weeks. Complete recovery will take a few weeks to several months, depending on your health before surgery.

Update Date: 5/15/2008

Updated by: Robert A Cowles, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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