What is Heart Valve Surgery?
Heart valve surgery replaces or repairs the malfunctioning heart valves. Heart valves are the crucial channel for blood flowing into the heart and out of it. These valves open up enough so that the blood can flow through. Heart valve surgery is an often-used form of open-heart surgery.
What causes heart valve problems?
In India, heart valve disease is often caused by rheumatic heart diseases in childhood. This can damage the heart valve gradually across many years.
In western countries, heart valve problems occur through degenerative myxomatous – a connective tissue order affecting the mitral valves. Among four heart valves working in different heart chambers and arteries, the mitral and aortic valves are more prone to get infected.
Repair or Replacement:
Heart valve surgery could involve either repairing the affected heart valve or replacing it. Repairing the Aortic valve is uncommon and has fewer success rates, so the Aortic valve is more often replaced in surgery.
The mitral valve can be repaired in the early phases of rheumatic disease.
Repair is a better option than replacement as it enhances a patient’s survival and causes fewer hindrances to a normal lifestyle. Repair is done in childhood and women in childbearing age. A drawback though is valve repair, it will need another surgery if the repair fails after some years. Replacing the heart valve becomes unavoidable if a valve is too defective and beyond repair.
Types of heart valve used for replacement:
- Bioprosthetic Valve – made from animal tissue
- Mechanical Valve – made from a special type of carbon alloy
Bioprosthetic valves can last for about 15 years and are recommended for patients older than 60 years. This valve is not ideal for younger patients as they degenerate more quickly.
Mechanical Valves are more long-lasting, and can even last for a lifetime. The downside is that they need blood-thinning medication for a lifetime. This life-saving medication has to be diligently taken without fail. Valve replacement patients should avoid injury, infections, and foods containing Vitamin ‘K’ as they aid blood clotting.
Mechanical heart valves generally do not fail. Complications such as blood clotting can be avoided with a disciplined intake of medications, regular medical checkups, and consultations with the doctor. The mechanical heart valve makes a clicking sound which the patient can hear.
Heart valve surgeries have a high success rate, enabling patients to live a normal life.
Dr. Mrinalendu Das, MS, MCh, FIACS, Senior Consultant Cardiac Surgery, Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences, Kolkata