Artificial Heart Valve Surgery

The heart is a pump made of muscle tissue. It has four pumping chambers: two upper chambers, called atria, and two lower chambers, called ventricles. Valves between each of the heart's pumping chambers keep blood flowing forward through the heart:
 
  • Tricuspid valve. Located between the right atrium and the right ventricle
  • Pulmonary valve. Located between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery
  • Mitral valve. Located between the left atrium and the left ventricle
  • Aortic valve. Located between the left ventricle and the aorta

When valves are damaged or diseased and do not work the way they should they may need to be repaired or replaced. Conditions that may cause heart valve dysfunction are valve stenosis (stiffness) and valve regurgitation (leaky valve).

When one (or more) valve(s) becomes stenotic (stiff), the heart has to work harder to pump the blood through the valve. Valves can become narrow and stiff from infection (such as rheumatic fever or staph) and aging. If one or more valves become leaky, blood leaks backwards, which means less blood is pumped in the right direction. Based on your symptoms and the overall condition of your heart, your healthcare provider may decide that the diseased valve(s) needs to be surgically repaired or replaced.

Traditionally, open-heart surgery is used to repair or replace heart valves. This means that a large incision is made in the chest and the heart stopped for a time so that the surgeon can repair or replace the valve(s). Newer, less invasive techniques have been developed to replace or repair heart valves. Minimally invasive procedures make smaller incisions, and mean less pain afterward and shorter hospital stays.

The diseased valve may be repaired using a ring to support the damaged valve, or the entire valve may be removed and replaced by an artificial valve. Artificial valves may be made of carbon coated plastic or tissue (made from animal valves or human valves taken from donors). You and your healthcare provider will talk about the pros and cons of each type and what might be best for you.

Do you have questions about the Palomar Health Heart and Vascular Center in North San Diego County? Contact Us