Valve Replacement Surgery for a Healthier Heart
If a patient has severe valve damage most likely the heart valve will need to be replaced. Valve replacement surgery is most often used to treat aortic valves and severely damaged mitral valves. It is also used to treat any valve disease that is life-threatening. Sometimes, more than one valve may be damaged in the heart, so patients may need more than one valve repaired or replaced.
Two kinds of valves are used in valve replacement surgery:
- Mechanical valves are made of synthetic materials. They are reliable, and last a long time. Because blood tends to stick to mechanical valves and create blood clots, patients with these valves will need to take blood-thinning medicines (anticoagulants).
- Biological valves are made from animal tissue or taken from the human tissue of a donated heart. Sometimes, a patient's own tissue can be used for valve replacement.
Minimally invasive heart valve surgery
Franciscan Health offers minimally invasive heart valve surgery to selected patients. Minimally invasive heart valve surgery replaces or repairs heart valves using smaller incisions. This results in less pain for the patient, a shorter hospital stay and a faster recovery time.
- Aortic valve replacement incisions are performed through an upper mini-sternotomy, in which an incision is made from the sternal notch to the third intercostal space.
- Mitral valve replacement incisions are performed through a lower mini-sternotomy, in which a six to eight centimeter incision is made at the lower end of the sternum upward to the second intercostal space and extending into the interspace on the right.
Patients who require additional cardiac procedures, including, coronary artery bypass surgery, elderly patients, patients with very diseased arteries and patients with a very weakly contracting heart will not be suitable for this approach.