Heart Valve Replacement

Definition

This is surgery to replace a damaged heart valve. The heart's four valves open and tightly close. The tricuspid and mitral valves allow blood to flow from one chamber to another. The pulmonary and aortic valves allow blood to flow to the large blood vessels. The valves make it so that blood can only flow forward when the heart squeezes. Usually, only one valve is replaced at a time. However, at times, one or more valves may need to be replaced. The new heart valves can be:
  • Mechanical, made of metal and plastic, such as a St. Jude valve
  • Made of tissue—most commonly from a pig or a cow, but they may also be supplied by a human donor or even made from your own tissue
Aortic Valve Replacements: Mechanical vs. Tissue
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Reasons for Procedure

This procedure is done to repair a valve that is not functioning properly due to:
  • Congenital defects
  • Narrowed, stiff valves that obstruct the free flow of blood
  • Loose, leaky valves that allow blood to flow the wrong way through the heart
  • Infected heart valves

Possible Complications

If you are planning to have heart valve replacement, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
  • Infection
  • Blood clots forming around the valve, which can cause a stroke, , myocardial infarction, kidney damage, or damage to the extremities
  • New valve does not work properly
  • Bleeding
  • Anesthesia-related problems
  • Death
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
  • Smoking
  • Pre-existing heart or lung condition
  • Increased age
  • Recent or long-term illness
  • Recent infection

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