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Aortic Valve Replacement

Why is Aortic Valve Replacement necessary?


Aortic Valve replacement is a medical procedure which is performed to treat conditions affecting the aortic valve.

What is an aortic valve?

A human heart has four valves and the aortic valve is one of them. It separates the left ventricle and aorta. It regulates blood flow through the heart. When the ventricle contracts, the aortic valve gets opened and allows blood flow from the left ventricle to aorta. Similarly, when the ventricle relaxes, the aortic valve closes its gate to blood flow in the backward direction.

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The problem arises when the aortic valve stops functioning properly and forces the heart to supply the required blood to the rest of the body. Most people suffering from aortic valve disorder don’t exhibit any kind of sign or symptom, while some people experience breathing problem, fatigue, severe chest pain, irregular heartbeat – arrhythmia and sometimes, heart failure or cardiac death. In such cases, you need to consult a well-experienced and highly-qualified doctor to avoid serious conditions.

Aortic valve replacement/repair treats condition aortic valve disorders and helps restore the blood flow thereby, leading a normal and healthy life.

Types of Disorders:

Depending on the degree of severity, signs/symptoms, the treatment is done.

Aortic Valve Regurgitation:

This condition happens when blood flows back into the left ventricle even when the ventricle is in the relaxing state. It could be due to a dysfunctional or dripping valve. An abnormal valve shape by birth is also one of the reasons responsible and is also termed as congenital heart disease.

Aortic Valve Stenosis:

It is a narrowing of the aortic valve. Some of the reasons responsible are congenital heart disease, thickening of the valve’s tissue flaps (leaflets) or post-inflammatory changes associated with rheumatic heart disease.

Congenital Heart Disease:

Although it can hit at any stage, mostly it happens when the valve doesn’t take its shape in the developing fetus. The leaflets could be absent, misshapen or the valve may not have any openings.

In some cases, it gets worse despite medical treatment. Also, this is one of the medical conditions that can not be treated only be medications. Hence, surgery is needed to remove this deformity and other complications related to the heart.

Repair or Replacement?

The decision to repair or replacement depends on the following factors:

  • Degree of severity
  • The age and overall health of the patient
  • Whether heart surgery is required to treat other heart conditions besides aortic valve disease.

Mostly, doctors opt for repair instead of replacement as it is less risky, maintaining the valve’s natural strength and restrains the patient to take blood-thinning medications which is necessary in case of replacement. It is true that not all valves can be repaired and hence, these conditions require replacement. However, both conditions are treated through an open-heart surgery which either involves an incision in the chest or through minimally invasive surgery with smaller incisions in the chest. Another procedure is transcatheter aortic valve replacement in which a catheter is inserted in the leg or chest.

Risks Associated with Repair/Replacement

Depending on the health, age, condition of valve and expertise of the medical team, the procedure is carried out. However, in both the cases, the risks are associated and they are:

  • Formation of blood clots
  • Infection
  • Valves may become dysfunctional in case of replacement
  • Heart rhythm problems
  • Bleeding
  • Stroke
  • Death

The patient needs to discuss with his/her medical team diet, medication plan, what is to be done before and post surgery. The physician may ask you to avoid driving and lifting heavy things post surgery. Once the surgery is done, the doctor will tell you when you will be able to return to perform normal activities such as walking, physical activities, etc. The medical team may also ask the patient to join a cardiac rehabilitation for quick recovery post surgery.