VALVE  SURGERY

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Reasons for Replacement

The valves of the heart are responsible for allowing nutrient-rich blood to flow through the chambers of your heart. Each valve is supposed to close completely after ushering in blood flow. Diseased heart valves aren’t always able to perform the job as well as they should.

Stenosis, or a narrowing of the blood vessels, causes a less-than-normal amount of blood to flow to the heart. This causes the muscle to work harder. Leaky valves can also pose a problem. Instead of closing tightly, a valve may remain slightly open, letting blood flow backwards. This is called regurgitation. The signs of valvular heart disease can include:

  • fatigue

  • dizziness

  • lightheadedness

  • shortness of breath

  • cyanosis

  • chest pain

  • fluid retention, especially in the lower limbs

Heart valve repair is also a solution for valvular heart disease. In some people, the damage is too far advanced and a total replacement of the affected valve is the only option.

Types of Replacement Valves

Mechanical and biologic valves are used to replace faulty valves. Mechanical valves are artificial components that have the same purpose as a natural heart valve. They’re created from carbon and polyester materials that the human body tolerates well. They can last between 10 and 20 years. However, one of the risks associated with mechanical valves is blood clots. If you receive a mechanical heart valve, you’ll need to take blood thinners for the rest of your life to reduce your risk of stroke.

Biologic valves, also called bioprosthetic valves, are created from human or animal tissue. There are mainly two types of biologic heart valves:​

  • A porcine valve is made from pig tissue. This valve can be implanted with or without a frame called a stent.

  • A bovine valve is made from cow tissue. It connects to your heart with silicone rubber.

Biologic valves don’t increase your risk of developing blood clots. This means you most likely won’t need to commit to a lifetime of anti-clotting medication. A bioprosthetic doesn’t last as long as a mechanical valve and may require replacement at a future date.

Your doctor will recommend which type of heart valve you get based on:

  • your age

  • your overall health

  • your ability to take anticoagulant medications

  • the extent of the disease

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