Heart valve disease is a condition where one or multiple valves in the heart do not function properly. In a healthy heart the valves open and close once during each heartbeat which ensures blood flows in the right direction. However, valves can fail to open properly (called stenosis) or close properly (called regurgitation) which can result in blood being stopped at inopportune moments or leaking. The type of heart valve disease you have (aortic, mitral, pulmonary, or tricuspid) depends on the valve affected. Treatment of the condition may include medication, balloon valvotomy, or heart valve replacement surgery. If your condition is mild enough, the doctor may take a wait and see attitude.
When it comes to heart valve surgery, the surgeon may take one of two approaches. The doctor may repair the valve. This involves tightening the valve by sewing a ring around the opening. The valve may also be cut, separated, or shortened in order to get it function properly. The other option the surgeon may take is to completely replace the valve with a prosthetic. The prosthetic may be mechanical and made from artificial materials. These types of valves require the patient to take an anticoagulant for the rest of their life. Biological prosthetics also exist which are transplanted from cows, pigs, or other human donors. However, these valves tend to wear out quicker than mechanical ones.
Heart valve replacement surgery is similar to bypass surgery. The patient is put under general anesthesia and the chest is opened. Since the heart can not beat during the surgery, the patient is hooked up to a heart-lung machine that ensures oxygen is circulated throughout the body. The heart is then stopped so that the surgeon can repair or replace the valve. Minimally invasive heart valve surgery can be done as an alternative. This option involves smaller cuts in the chest which result in a faster recovery and less pain.
This type of surgery is highly successful and valves can last for 8 to 20 years depending on the type used. The development of medical complications from heart valve surgery was relatively low although bleeding, blood clots, and infection can occur. Addition risks associated with this surgery includes heart attack, irregular heartbeat, kidney failure, stroke, low grade fever coupled with chest pain, and death. Additionally, you may need to take anticoagulant medication to prevent other complications from developing. More information about heart valve replacement surgery can be obtained from a qualified medical professional.