Cardiac Valvular Surgery
(Open Heart Surgery)
During cardiac valvular (open heart) surgery, damaged heart valves are either repaired or replaced. Repair is almost always preferable to replacement but not always possible. Occasionally, the patient will have more than one defective valve and will require that more than one valve be repaired or replaced. Replacement valves are most often made of special metals or animal tissues, such as the human, porcine or bovine pericardial valves. In special cases an “arterial switch operation” may be indicated and your doctor will discuss with you in great detail the different options and what he feels will be the best option in your case. All these prostheses are wonderful devices that are used to replace and perform the function of a normal valve. Once in place, these valves perform very well and substantially improve the patient’s quality of life.
Minimally invasive valve surgery techniques are being utilized in a selective group of patients, especially those requiring less complex valve procedures. This implies that the operation is done through a smaller chest incision, hence diminishing the overall magnitude of the surgical intervention.
There are a selective group of patients who are candidates for "robotic" valvular repair. Recovery times are shorter following "robotic" repair related to a smaller incision line (approximately 3 -4 inches). Your surgeon will let you know if this option is right for you.
However, once the patient has a prosthetic valve in place, he or she must maintain a regular follow-up with a family physician or cardiologist to make certain that clinical progress and valve function are normal. Almost all patients with a metallic prosthesis in place will require long-term anticoagulation (blood thinning). This is a very important part of the treatment, and the patient’s strict compliance with physician orders is vital to prevent unwanted serious complications such as bleeding, clot formation in the valve and possible valve failure or strokes.