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Aortic Valve Surgery

An aortic valve procedure is a surgery done to replace a diseased heart valve with a prosthetic (or artificial) valve. These values can be tissue (cow or pig) or mechanical. This procedure is performed on a patient who has been diagnosed with heart valve disease when more minimal treatments have not improved the condition.

Symptoms of heart valve disease may include rapid heartbeat, chest pain, dizziness, fatigue, or shortness of breath. Having the diseased valve replaced surgically leads to improved heart function and decreased symptoms.

Why choose Presbyterian for your aortic valve surgery?

Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care features a skilled team of healthcare professionals who can provide a wide range of services from diagnosis to treatment. Their cardiothoracic surgeons are trained in some of the most innovative techniques in heart surgery, providing their patients with faster recoveries and less hospital time.

Who is eligible for aortic valve surgery?

Patients who have been diagnosed with a damaged or diseased heart valve have not responded to conventional medical treatments and are not eligible for the more minimally invasive transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure (TAVR).

You may require a chest X-ray, CT scan, electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiogram, or other tests to determine whether the procedure is appropriate.

What conditions can be treated with aortic valve surgery?

Aortic valve surgery treats aortic valve damage or diseases such as stenosis or regurgitation.

  • Stenosis occurs when the heart’s aortic valve thickens, preventing the valve from opening fully. This limits blood flow from your heart to the rest of your body.

  • Regurgitation is a condition where the aortic valve doesn’t close properly, so blood moves back into the chambers of the heart.

Both conditions can cause chest pain, fainting, shortness of breath, and leg swelling. Without valve replacement, they can lead to heart failure and sudden cardiac death.

How do I prepare for aortic valve surgery?

In the days before surgery, your PHS doctor will go over what you should do to prepare and what you should expect. Typically, you will do the following:

  • Talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking and whether you should continue to take them before the surgery.

  • Refrain from eating and drinking several hours before the procedure.

  • Pack a bag with comfortable clothing, toothbrush, toothpaste, and any personal grooming items you might want. In addition, consider packing a book, tablet, charger, or anything else that will allow you to relax while in the hospital.

  • Be sure to ask any questions you still have about the procedure and associated risks.

Make arrangements for assistance after your surgery. It will take several weeks to recover to the point where you can drive again, return to work, and perform daily tasks.

What should I expect during my aortic valve surgery?

The entire procedure takes two to five hours.

  • Through intravenous medication, you will be made comfortable and unconscious for the entirety of the procedure.

  • A cut of several inches is made in the chest.

  • The sternum (breastbone) is opened.

  • The heart is stopped, and you will be connected to a heart-lung machine that takes over pumping blood.

  • The diseased valve is removed, and a new one is placed.

  • The heart is restarted and taken off of the heart-lung machine.

  • Wire is used to close the sternum, and the chest is stitched up.

  • You will wake up in ICU on a ventilator that should be removed soon. You will be closely monitored, given oxygen, and hooked up to IVs for nutrition, fluids, and medication.

You will be moved out of ICU and into a regular hospital room once the care team is happy with your condition, and you will stay for a few days. Here, doctors make sure there are no signs of infection and will help to alleviate pain. Then, you will begin to work in regular movement and breathing exercises.

How do I care for myself after my aortic valve surgery?

Before being released from the hospital, your care team will explain what you should do to recover as quickly as possible.

For most patients, the following is recommended:

  • First, try to get back to a usual sleep routine.
  • Don’t sleep in too late but rest often throughout the day.
  • Get light exercise—an easy walk outdoors or on a treadmill. Increase the length of this exercise each day.
  • You may be taking pain medication for several days, as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Take your temperature in the afternoon and at night for a few weeks. Contact PHS if your temperature is higher than 100.
  • It is normal to lose some weight a few weeks after surgery. However, if you gain more than a couple of pounds, contact your doctor because you may be retaining fluid.
  • Do not lift anything heavy (more than 10 pounds) for six to eight weeks.
  • Do not drive a car for a few weeks, and only then when you feel strong and can do so safely.
Doctor holding patient's hand in hospital.

Presbyterian Heart & Vascular Care Providers

Our team of highly skilled doctors and clinicians offers a full range of heart-related services from diagnosis and treatment to monitoring.

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