Heart Valve Repair
Blood is pumped through heart in only one direction. Heart valves play a vital role in managing this one-way blood flow, opening and closing with each heartbeat. Pressure changes on either side of the valves cause them to open their flap-like "doors" (called cusps or leaflets) at just the right time, and then valves close tightly to prevent a backflow of blood.
Heart valve disease is a condition when a valve doesn't work right. A valve may not open all the way. Or, a valve may have problems closing. If this happens, blood doesn't move through the heart's chambers the way it should.
If a valve doesn't open all the way, less blood will move through to the next chamber. If a valve doesn't close tightly, blood may leak backward. These problems may mean that the heart has to work harder to pump the same amount of blood. Or, blood may back up in the lungs or body because it's not moving through the heart as it should.
In a heart valve surgery, one or more valves are repaired or replaced. In heart valve repair the valve is mended to help it work better. Replacement means your diseased valve is removed and a new valve is inserted in its place. Whether a valve will be repaired or replaced can only be decided once surgery has begun. Your surgeon will talk with you about his or her plans for surgery and any other procedures you may need.
During the heart valve repair surgery, one or more incisions are made in your chest. For minimally invasive valve surgery, these incisions are most often much smaller than those made for traditional valve surgery. One of two types of incisions may be used depending on the location of the valve and the method of surgery used. Your surgeon will discuss with you about which incision you will receive.
During heart valve surgery, your heart must not beat. To keep your blood flowing, it is passed through a heart-lung machine. This machine gives oxygen to your blood and pumps the blood back through your body. Your surgeon may choose to connect your body to the machine through the vessels in your heart or through vessels in your groin. To reach the valve, an incision is made in your heart or aorta.
In heart valve repair, a ring may be sewn around the opening of the valve to tighten it. Other parts of the valve may be cut, shortened, separated, or made stronger to help the valve open and close right.
After that, the incision in your heart or aorta is closed. Your heart is then started so it beats on its own again. Once the valve surgery is done, your heart and lungs take over again.
The surgery can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours or more, depending on the number of valves that need to be repaired. You can expect to stay in the hospital for about a week, including at least 1 to 3 days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Recovery after valve surgery may take a long time, depending on how healthy you were before the operation. You will have to rest and limit your activities. Your doctor may want you to begin an exercise program or to join a cardiac rehabilitation program.
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