Cardiac Surgery

Procedures - Surgery - Valve Replacement Surgery

Why is the doctor performing this surgery?
To replace a poorly functioning heart valve. The valve can be narrowed and obstruct blood flow (called Stenosis), or it can be floppy/leaky (called Insufficiency). Properly functioning heart valves are essential to direct the flow of blood thru the heart, and to maintain a normal workload for the heart. The most common heart valves surgically replaced are the mitral valve and the aortic valve.

What is the surgery?
This surgery is an open-heart procedure to remove the poorly functioning (either Stenotic or Insufficient) valve, and replace it with either a mechanical (synthetic/man-made) or a tissue (biologic/from another organism) valve. The pumping and oxygenation function of the heart is taken over by a heart-lung machine during the surgery, and medications are given that briefly paralyze the heart (Cardioplegia). This way, the heart is completely at rest while the surgeon performs the replacement surgery.

Mechanical valves are created from man-made materials. Lifetime therapy with an anticoagulant (sometimes called a "blood thinner") is needed when these types of valves are used. This medication prevents blood clots from forming on or around the valve.

Biological (tissue) valves are taken from pig, cow, or human donors. These valves may not last as long as mechanical valves. But when tissue valves are used, long-term use of an anticoagulant often isn't needed.

Your doctor will talk with you about choosing the best valve for you. Factors weighed include your age, your occupation, the size of your valve, how well your heart is working, your heart's rhythm, your ability to take an anticoagulant, and how many new valves you need.

Please note: Patients receiving a mechanical valve replacement will be required to take a blood-thinning medication called Coumadin (an anticoagulant) daily for life to prevent blood clots from forming on the prosthetic valve.

Where is the surgery performed?
In the Operating Room (OR), under general anesthesia.