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Heart Valve Replacement
- 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
- 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
- Blood clots forming around the valve, which can cause a stroke, heart attack, kidney damage, or damage to the extremities
- New valve does not work properly
- Anesthesia-related problems
- Pre-existing heart or lung condition
- Increased age
- Recent or long-term illness
- Recent infection
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
- Physical exam
- Echocardiogram —a test that uses sound waves to visualize functioning of the heart, including the valves
- X-ray —a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body
- ECG—a test that records the electrical activity of the heart
- Cardiac catheterization —the insertion of a tube-like instrument into the heart through an artery to detect problems with the heart and its blood supply. It can also accurately define the valve problem.
- Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
- Arrange for a ride to and from the hospital.
- Arrange for help at home after the surgery.
- Eat a light meal the night before the surgery. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
Description of the Procedure
Immediately After Procedure
- A heart monitor
- A breathing tube—until you can breathe on your own
- Chest tubes—to drain excess fluids from the chest
- A line into an artery in your arm or leg—to measure pressure
- A tube through your nose and into the stomach—to keep the stomach drained of excess fluids and gas
- An IV to deliver fluids and medications
- A bladder catheter
How Long Will It Take?
How Much Will It Hurt?
Average Hospital Stay
- Breathe deeply and cough 10-20 times every hour to help keep your lungs working well.
- Walk with assistance. You may be encouraged to walk 2-3 days after surgery.
- Take blood thinners to prevent blood clots from forming around the valve. If you have a tissue valve, you will not need a blood thinner. If you have a mechanical valve, you will have to take the medication for the rest of your life.
- Take medications to control pain or prevent blood clots.
- Care for the wound to prevent infection.
- Work with a physical therapist.
Call Your Doctor
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision site
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you were given
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- Rapid heart rate
- Sudden headache or feeling faint
- Problems with vision or speaking
- Numbness or weakness on one side of your body
- Inability to urinate
- Pain, burning, urgency, frequency of urination, or persistent bleeding in the urine
- Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
- Review Date: 09/2017
- Update Date: 09/30/2014