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During open-heart valve surgery, the doctor makes a large incision in the chest. Blood is circulated outside of the body through a machine
to add oxygen to it (cardiopulmonary bypass or heart-lung machine). The heart
may be cooled to slow or stop the heartbeat so that the heart is protected from
damage while surgery is done to replace the valve with an artificial valve.
The artificial valve might be mechanical (made
of man-made substances). Others are made out of animal tissue, often from a
How this surgery is done
How to prepare for this surgery
What To Expect After Surgery
You will recover in the hospital until you are healthy enough to go home. Depending on your overall health, you will
likely go home a few days after surgery.
Surgery will likely involve a long recovery over several weeks. You will probably need to take 4 to 12 weeks off from work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel. In some cases, full recovery may
take several months.
If your chronic regurgitation is getting worse and you have symptoms, you will likely have surgery. You might have surgery before you get symptoms, especially if your regurgitation is getting worse. If you have acute regurgitation, surgery will likely be done right away.
Valve replacement surgery is the only cure for aortic valve regurgitation. It helps relieve symptoms and prevent heart failure. And it helps people live longer.1
Aortic Valve Stenosis
Valve replacement surgery is the only effective treatment for people who have severe aortic valve stenosis with symptoms.1 If you don't have surgery after you start having symptoms, you may die suddenly or develop heart failure. Surgery can help you have a more normal life span.
surgery has a high rate of success and a low risk of causing other problems if
you are otherwise healthy. Although most people have successful outcomes, there is a risk of death
and serious problems during surgery. Valve replacement surgery is high-risk for people who have a failing
left ventricle and who have had a heart attack. About 5 or less out of 100 people who have
valve surgery die.2
If you have an aortic valve regurgitation or stenosis and have symptoms, the risks of not replacing the valve are greater than the risks of surgery unless you have other health problems that make surgery too
Even if valve
replacement surgery is a success, you may have problems after surgery, such
An increased risk of blood clots. These can break off and cause a
heart attack. You will need to take blood-thinning
medicines (anticoagulants) right after surgery to help prevent
blood clots. If you get a mechanical valve instead of a tissue valve, you will
need to take blood-thinners for as long as you have that
A need for another replacement valve.
This will depend on the type of valve you get and how long you live after you
have the surgery.
Incomplete relief from symptoms. Some types of valves do not have openings as wide as a normal
valve for a person your size. This can limit how well the valve works to
relieve your symptoms.
A valve that fails.
There is a small chance that the valve will not work. Your doctor will need to
check from time to time to make sure that your valve is working.
What To Think About
If you decide to have surgery, you and your doctor will decide which type of valve is right for you.
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement is a new way to replace an aortic valve. It does not require open-heart surgery. It is a minimally invasive procedure that uses catheters in blood vessels to replace the aortic valve with a specially designed artificial valve. The catheters are inserted through small cuts in the groin.
This procedure is available in a small number of hospitals. And it is not right for everyone. It might be done for a person who cannot have surgery or for a person who has a high risk of serious problems from surgery. For example, it might be an option if you are not healthy enough for an open-heart surgery. Although this procedure is minimally invasive, it has serious risks including stroke, kidney problems, and death.3
Freeman RV, Otto CM (2011). Aortic valve disease. In V Fuster et al., eds., Hurst’s The Heart, 13th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1692-1720. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Bonow RO, et al. (2008). 2008 Focused update incorporated into the ACC/AHA 2006 Guidelines for the management of patients with valvular heart disease: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines (Writing committee to revise the 1998 Guidelines for the management of patients with valvular heart disease). Circulation, 118(15):
Holmes DR Jr, et al. (2012). 2012 ACCF/AATS/SCAI/STS Expert consensus document on transcatheter aortic valve replacement. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Published online January 31, 2012 (doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2012.01.001).
Primary Medical Reviewer
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer
John A. McPherson, MD, FACC, FSCAI - Cardiology
April 30, 2013
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
April 30, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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