Heart Valve Replacement Surgery | Cardiothoracic Surgery | Loyola Medicine

Heart Valve Replacement Surgery

Overview and Facts about Heart Valve Replacement Surgery

Heart valve replacement surgery is a type of cardiac surgery used to replace heart valves. For this procedure, the heart must be stopped for a short time so that a large incision can be made in the chest and the valve can be replaced.

When the affected valve is removed, it is replaced with a human donor valve or an artificial valve, which is usually made from carbon that is coated with plastic or animal tissue.

Heart valve replacement surgery may be necessary when one or more valves become stiff, which forces the heart to work harder to pump blood. The surgery may also be necessary if a valve becomes leaky, causing blood to leak out backward. 

What to Expect during Heart Valve Replacement Surgery

For heart valve replacement surgery, you will lie on your back on the surgical table, and your health care team will prepare you for surgery by inserting an IV line into your arm to provide fluids. You may also have catheters inserted into your wrist and neck to monitor your blood pressure and heart.

After you have been given a general anesthetic, your doctor will put you on a ventilator, which will breathe for you throughout the surgery.

An echocardiogram probe will be inserted into your esophagus to monitor the function of your valves, and a tube will be inserted into your mouth to drain any fluid from your stomach.

Your team will prepare you for surgery by sterilizing the skin on your chest and shaving it, if necessary. Your surgeon will then make a long incision in your chest to expose your heart.

You will be connected to a lung bypass machine so that the surgeon can briefly stop your heart. Once it has stopped beating, your surgeon will replace the affected valve.

Once the cardiac surgery has been completed, your surgeon will restart your heart, allow the blood from the bypass machine to reenter your body and make sure the new valve is not leaking.

The surgeon will also insert a tube into your chest to allow for the drainage of fluids around your heart. Your sternum will be rejoined, and the incision will be closed. A sterile bandage will be applied.

You will remain in the hospital for several days so your recovery can be monitored.

What are the Side Effects of Heart Valve Replacement Surgery?

There are no reported side effects from heart valve replacement surgery.

What are the Risks of Heart Valve Replacement Surgery?

Risks from heart valve replacement surgery include:

  • Bleeding
  • Breathing problems
  • Formation of blood clots
  • Improperly functioning replaced valve
  • Infection
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Pneumonia