Aortic Valve Surgery | Cardiothoracic Surgery | Loyola Medicine

Aortic Valve Surgery

Overview and Facts about Aortic Valve Surgery

Aortic valve surgery refers to the surgical repair or replacement of the valve between the heart and the aorta. The aortic valve is located between the heart’s left ventricle and the aorta, the body’s largest artery.

When the left ventricle contracts, blood flows through the valve and into the aorta on its way to be supplied throughout the body. Surgery of the aortic valve may be necessary in cases of impaired functioning, including a “leaky” or blocked valve.

A malfunctioning aortic valve may be surgically repaired or replaced with a mechanical (or synthetic) valve or a biological valve composed of animal tissue or valve tissue from a donated human heart.

A synthetic aortic valve is usually permanent, though you will need to take blood-thinning medications for the rest of your life. A biological replacement does not require the use of these medicines, but the valve will need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years. 

What to Expect during Aortic Valve Surgery

A cardiac surgeon with specialized and extensive training in the procedure will perform your aortic valve surgery in a hospital. You will be sedated with general anesthesia and will remain asleep throughout the procedure. The surgeon will open your chest through an incision over the breastbone, and you will be placed on a heartlung machine to continue the circulation of oxygenated blood throughout the body during surgery.

In aortic valve replacement, your valve will be removed and the new valve will be placed with stitching. Repair may involve one or more of several surgical techniques to reshape, reinforce, or patch the valve. Aortic surgery typically lasts between two to four hours.

Following surgery, you will receive constant care and monitoring in the intensive care unit for one to three days and remain hospitalized for around a week after the procedure. Tubing inserted in your chest following the procedure will remain in place for several days to drain any postsurgical fluid around your heart.

Proper at-home care and cardiac rehabilitation following aortic valve surgery are vital to your recovery. Your doctor will advise you about whatwhich activities should be avoided and for how long, in addition to incision site care, and prescription medication instructions.

A postsurgical cardiac rehabilitation plan will be developed by a multidisciplinary team of medical professionals to guide your recovery.

What are the Side Effects of Aortic Valve Surgery?

Postsurgical side effects are common and typically begin to subside within four to six weeks. Your doctor may prescribe treatment to minimize any discomfort you may experience.

Side effects of aortic valve surgery include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Constipation
  • Muscle pain or tightness in your shoulders or back
  • Pain, redness, or swelling at the incision site
  • Temporary changes in mood
  • Trouble sleeping 

You may experience additionalside effects of the postsurgical medication perscribed.

What are the Risks of Aortic Valve Surgery?

Risks associated with aortic valve surgery are not common, though the likelihood of developing complications increases with age and poor overall health. These risks include:

  • Excessive bleeding or blood clotting
  • Heart valve failure
  • Infection of the incision, lungs, inner lining of the heart or bladder
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Stroke