Blood flows out of your heart and into a large blood vessel called the aorta. The aortic valve separates the heart and aorta. The aortic valve opens so blood can flow out. It then closes to keep blood from returning to the heart.
You may need aortic valve surgery to replace the aortic valve in your heart if:
The aortic valve can be replaced using:
Mini-thoracotomy aortic valve replacement or repair; Cardiac valvular surgery; Mini-sternotomy; Robotically-assisted aortic valve replacement; Transcatheter aortic valve replacement; TAVR
Before your surgery, you will receive general anesthesia.
You will be asleep and pain-free.
There are several ways to do minimally invasive aortic valve surgery. Techniques include min-thoracotomy, min-sternotomy, robot-assisted surgery, and percutaneous surgery. To perform the different procedures:
You may need to be on a heart-lung machine for all of these surgeries.
When the aortic valve is too damaged for repair, a new valve is put in place. Your surgeon will remove your aortic valve and sew a new one into place. There are two main types of new valves:
Another technique is transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). TAVR aortic valve surgery can be done through a small incision made in the groin or the left chest. The replacement valve is passed into the blood vessel or the heart and moved up to the aortic valve. The catheter has a balloon on the end. The balloon is inflated to stretch the opening of the valve. This procedure is called percutaneous valvuloplasty and allows for a new valve to be placed in this spot. The surgeon then sends a catheter with an attached valve and detaches the valve to take the place of the damaged aortic valve. A biological valve is used for TAVR. You do not need to be on a heart-lung machine for this procedure.
In some cases, you will have coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG), or surgery to replace part of the aorta at the same time.
Once the new valve is working, your surgeon will:
The surgery can take 3 to 6 hours, however, a TAVR procedure is often shorter.
Aortic valve surgery is done when the valve does not work properly. Surgery may be done for these reasons:
A minimally invasive procedure can have many benefits. There is less pain, blood loss, and risk of infection. You will also recover faster than you would from open heart surgery.
Percutaneous valvuloplasty and catheter-based valve replacement such as TAVR are done only in people who are too sick or at very high risk for major heart surgery. The results of percutaneous valvuloplasty are not long-lasting.
Risks of any anesthesia are:
Other risks vary by the person's age. Some of these risks are:
Always tell your health care provider:
You may be able to store blood in the blood bank for transfusions during and after your surgery. Ask your provider about how you and your family members can donate blood.
For the week before surgery, you may be asked to stop taking medicines that make it harder for your blood to clot. These might cause increased bleeding during the surgery.
During the days before your surgery:
Prepare your house for when you get home from the hospital.
Shower and wash your hair the day before surgery. You may need to wash your body below your neck with a special soap. Scrub your chest 2 or 3 times with this soap. You also may be asked to take an antibiotic to prevent infection.
On the day of your surgery:
After your operation, you will spend 3 to 7 days in the hospital. You will spend the first night in an intensive care unit (ICU). Nurses will monitor your condition at all times.
Most of the time, you will be moved to a regular room or a transitional care unit in the hospital within 24 hours. You will start activity slowly. You may begin a program to make your heart and body stronger.
You may have two or three tubes in your chest to drain fluid from around your heart. Most of the time, these are taken out 1 to 3 days after surgery.
You may have a catheter (flexible tube) in your bladder to drain urine. You may also have intravenous (IV) lines for fluids. Nurses will closely watch monitors that display your vital signs (pulse, temperature, and breathing). You will have daily blood tests and EKGs to test your heart function until you are well enough to go home.
A temporary pacemaker may be placed in your heart if your heart rhythm becomes too slow after surgery.
Once you are home, recovery takes time. Take it easy, and be patient with yourself.
Mechanical heart valves do not fail often. However, blood clots can develop on them. If a blood clot forms, you may have a stroke. Bleeding can occur, but this is rare.
Biological valves have a lower risk of blood clots, but tend to fail over time. Minimally invasive heart valve surgery has improved in recent years. These techniques are safe for most people and can reduce recovery time and pain. For best results, choose to have your aortic valve surgery at a center that does many of these procedures.
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Reiss GR, Williams MR. The role of the cardiac surgeon. In: Topol EJ, Teirstein PS, eds. Textbook of Interventional Cardiology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 32.
Rosengart TK, Anand J. Acquired heart disease: valvular. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 60.
Webb JG, Carroll JD. Transcatheter therapies for structural heart disease in adults. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 56.