What is a heart valve surgery?

Heart valve surgery is a medical procedure done to treat heart valve disease in a person. This disease causes at least one valve of the four heart valves to either stop working or work improperly. There are four heart valves in every person- tricuspid valve, mitral valve, pulmonary valve and aortic valve. They control the flow of the blood through the heart chambers. During the valve surgery, replacements and repairing of the diseased or damaged valve is done either through minimally invasive surgery or open heart operation. The type of surgery needed by a person depends on the severity and health of the person.

Why is valve surgery needed?

Heart Valve surgery is done for treating valve diseases caused by the following types of problems:

  • Stenosis or narrowing of the valve
  • Regurgitation or leaking of the blood from the valve

There are many cases where valve surgery is recommended even if the person is not experiencing any symptoms whatsoever. However, whether you require an open heart surgery or minimally invasive one is only decided after discussing the risks and benefits of each procedure with you.

What are the risks of heart valve surgery?

Just like other surgeries, there are several risks associated with the heart valve surgeries too. The possible risks of this procedure are:

  • Arrhythmias or irregular heartbeat
  • Infection
  • Heart attack
  • Bleeding
  • Strokes
  • Valve dysfunctioning of the replaced valves
  • Death

How to prepare for the heart valve surgery?

The preparation for the heart valves surgery starts around two weeks before the same. At that time, you need to:

  • Check with the doctor regarding taking your regular medications
  • Preparing the home for when you return back after the surgery
  • Plan for your return transportation back home
  • Get the tests prescribed by the doctor
  • It is recommended to shower with an antibacterial soap for minimal infections

Later, on the day before the surgery is scheduled, ensure the following:

  • Your bowels are completely opened. If not, ask for a laxative
  • Pack a small bag of toiletries and other essentials that you can take inside the ICU
  • Do not eat or drink anything from the night before the surgery

On the day the surgery takes place, you need to:

  • Ensure that you do not eat or drink anything before the surgery
  • All the hair on your chest, groin, arms and legs will be clipped off the hospital staff
  • Shower with the antibacterial soap that is provided by the hospital

What takes place during the heart valve surgery?

The surgery is performed under the effect of general anesthesia so as to relax and make the patient fall asleep. Later the heart is connected to a heart lung bypass machine that helps in an unrestricted flow of the blood throughout the body. The damaged heart valve will then be repaired or replaced by an artificial mechanical or biological valve.

Do remember, the recovery after a heart valve surgery should not be rushed. Proper care of the stitches so as to avoid infection should be done along with a physiotherapy session and breathing exercises. Follow your doctor’s advice regarding further care and lifestyle changes.

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