When the heart valves become diseased or damaged, they have to work harder to pump blood through the valve which may cause a number of health issues. Your doctor will determine whether your heart valve needs to be repaired or replaced based on symptoms you are experiencing. Repair or replacement typically involves open heart surgery where the heart is exposed and large tubes are inserted into the heart so that blood can be pumped through the body properly. Minimally invasive procedures can also be developed to repair and replace the heart valve.
Heart Valve Repair Procedures
Heart valve repair procedures can be performed on patients with congenital valve defects. Some of the common procedures performed for heart valve repair include:
• Commissurotomy – involves opening the valve by cutting the points where the thickened leaf-lets have stuck together.
• Valvuloplasty – involves attaching a ring-like device around the outside of the valve opening to strengthen the leaflet so that heart valves can close tightly.
• Reshaping – a section of the leaflet is cut away and sewn back together to close the valve completely.
• Decalcification – removes calcium buildup from the leaflets so they can close properly.
• Repair – involves replacing or shortening the cords that support the valves so they can close properly.
• Patching – placing a tissue patch over any holes or tears in the leaflets.
Heart Valve Replacement Procedures
If the heart valve is severely damaged, it must be replaced immediately with synthetic valves or biological valves that are derived from animal tissue. The two kinds of heart valve replacement procedures include:
• Mechanical valves – synthetic valves that are made with plastic, carbon, and metal. They are designed to last a lifetime and patients need to take blood thinning medications for the rest of their lives to prevent the high risk of blood clots with this procedure.
• Biological valves – made from animal tissue or from donor tissue from a human heart. These valves are equally as strong as mechanical valves but may need to be replaced every 10 years.
Both heart valve repair and replacement procedure require dividing the breastbone, stopping the heart, and sending blood to the body through a heart-lung machine. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia.
Recovering after Heart Valve Repair and Replacement Procedures
Most patients need to stay in the hospital for about a week after a repair or replacement proce-dure, including up to three days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Some patients need to join a cardiac rehabilitation program after surgery and can return to an office job within 4 to 6 weeks. Refraining from physical activities is encouraged since this can put too much stress on the heart and interfere with healing.
Learn more about heart valve repair and replacement procedures by scheduling your appoint-ment at our Los Angeles or Glendale office today.