Aortic valve replacement is a type of open-heart surgery used to fix problems with the aortic valve. The aortic valve controls how the heart sends blood to the rest of the body.
During an aortic valve replacement, a damaged or faulty valve is taken out, and a new one made of synthetic material or animal tissue is put in its place. It’s a major procedure with a long recovery period.
As you read this article, you’ll learn more about the aortic valve, the conditions that can damage it, and the signs that indicate you might need surgery.
When Does the Aortic Valve Need to Be Replaced?
Heart doctors perform aortic valve replacements often due to aortic stenosis or aortic regurgitation.
Aortic stenosis is a type of heart valve disease where the valve between the lower left heart chamber and the body’s main artery is narrowed and doesn’t open fully. This symptom blocks or reduces the blood flowing from the heart to the aorta and the rest of the body.
Your heart’s main pumping chamber is the left ventricle. Aortic regurgitation is a condition that happens when the aortic valve doesn’t close all the way. When this happens, blood leaks or flows backward from the left ventricle. Because of the leakage, the heart will have difficulty pumping blood to the rest of the body.
Aortic valve replacement may also be necessary for less common reasons, such as:
- Infection of the valve
- Congenital heart defects
- Chest trauma
A heart doctor will weigh the benefits of the procedure against several factors. These factors include:
- The patient’s general health
- The severity of the valve disease
- The overall prognosis
Altogether, the best way to decide on a course of treatment is to discuss your options with a trained medical professional.
How is an Aortic Valve Replacement Done?
Aortic valve replacement is surgery typically performed while the patient is asleep. The two main kinds of surgery to replace an aortic valve are open-heart and minimally invasive.
Traditional Aortic Valve Surgery
A heart surgeon will make a 6- to 8-inch incision down the middle of the sternum in a traditional open heart aortic valve surgery. They will divide some or all of the sternum (breastbone) to access the heart. The doctor will then repair or replace any abnormal heart valves.
Minimally Invasive surgery
In minimally invasive surgery, the surgeon makes a smaller cut in the chest and uses special tools and a video camera to replace the aortic valve without stopping the heart. Compared to open-heart surgery, this method can lead to less pain, less time in the hospital, and a shorter recovery.
Risks of an Aortic Valve Replacement
All major surgeries come with some risks and possible complications. Some of them can be serious. Aortic valve replacement is no different. Overall, the risks of replacing an aortic valve depend on the patient’s age and general health. The skill level of the surgeon also plays a major factor. Some of the most common risks are:
- Bleeding during and after the surgery
- Infection at the incision site or in the heart
- Blood clots after the surgery
- Damage to nearby organs
Before you get an aortic valve replacement, you should talk to an experienced doctor about these risks and how they can be reduced as much as possible.
Alternatives to an Aortic Valve Replacement
Aortic valve disease can be treated in different ways depending on how bad it is and the patient’s general health. In some cases, aortic valve replacement is not the best option. Here are some other possible choices:
This is a minimally invasive surgery in which a balloon is inflated inside the aortic valve to make the opening bigger and improve blood flow. This procedure usually benefits people with aortic stenosis who are not good candidates for surgery.
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)
In a TAVR, your healthcare provider will replace the aortic valve with a new one. It’s a minimally invasive surgery that uses imaging techniques to guide the new valve through an incision in the groin or chest. Most of the time, this is only suggested for the elderly or patients with other health problems.
Aortic Valve Replacement Near Me
Interested in learning more about aortic valve replacement? The Advanced Heart and Vascular Institute has board-certified doctors who can help you with your health problem and determine which treatment will be the best for you.
Call (561) 235-5621 or use our online Request an Appointment form to meet with one of our expert healthcare providers.