Understanding Heart Valve Surgery
Heart valve repair and heart valve replacement operations have become very common.Heart valves may either be repaired or replaced, depending on damage. These operations are designed to improve the health, quality, and longevity of life for those who have heart valve disease.
There are several things that can cause problems with your heart valves. A heart valve may have a mild defect at birth that will slightly weaken the valve and affect blood flow. Over time, this leads to failure of the valve. Diseases like rheumatic fever or bacterial infections may scar or destroy the valve. Aging and normal wear and tear of tissues will weaken or harden heart valves. Your heart valves have been opening and closing with each heart beat for your entire life. Some wear and tear is to be expected.
Sometimes the surgeon can restore the valve to function normally by remodeling the tissue, removing stretched tissue, or sewing the edges. Prosthetic or artificial rings are used to narrow a dilated valve and to reinforce valve repairs. One advantage of a heart valve repair operation is that a person's own valve tissues are used.
Heart valves that are seriously deformed or degenerated cannot be repaired. The old valve is removed and replaced with a new valve mechanism. The new valve is attached by sewing it to a rim of tissue kept from the original valve. There are different types of valve mechanisms in two categories tissue valves and mechanical valves.
What are the risks?
As in all major surgery, there are risks. Heart valve surgery has an excellent success rate. There is a small risk of:
- Heart attack
- Kidney failure
After careful review of your medical history and a physical exam, your surgeon will identify your risks.
It is important to be your own best health advocate. A good way to do that is by committing to routine physical exams and diagnostic tests as often as is recommended by your cardiac specialist. Early detection of heart disease is important for effective treatment.