"My father’s difficult lung surgery was a success."
Before undergoing valve surgery, irrespective of its type or purpose, you are required to go through a series of tests and examination procedures which will accurately assess the condition of your heart and overall health. Your physician will thus order some of the following tests:
After you are administered general anesthesia, a large incision will be made in your sternum (chest bone), on the left side of your heart. Alternatively, if you qualify or opt for minimally invasive surgery, a small incision will be made in your chest region, either in the sternum or under your right pectoral muscle. Cardiac arrest will be induced to temporarily stop the activity of your heart and a heart-lung machine will take over the functions of your organs (breathing and blood circulation). However, the stopping of your heart may not be necessary for this procedure, depending on the particularities and complexity of your condition. In this case, the surgery will be performed while your heart is beating. Having gained access to the inside of your chest cavity, the problematic valve will be repaired appropriately. Thereby, one of the following procedures will then ensue, depending on what condition you are suffering from:
Following the repair of the problematic valve, your incision will be closed with sutures (stitches) and a sterile dressing will be applied over the wound to protect it while it is healing and prevent infections. The duration of valve repair surgery is between 3 and 5 hours.
When the heart valve is extensively damaged or deteriorated and thus cannot be repaired, you will require valve replacement surgery, during which the defective valve will be changed with an artificial implant. There are two types of prostheses available:
Valve repair surgery entails a similar process to the previous procedure. You will be administered general anesthesia, your chest cavity will be open either by making a large incision across the sternum, on the left side of the heart, or by using a minimally invasive approach (one small incision) and cardiac arrest will be induced to stop the functioning of your heart and lungs. The activity of your organs will then be taken over by a heart-lung machine. Similarly, the stopping of your heart may not be necessary during valve repair surgery, depending on your condition.
After we gain access to the inside of the chest, the implant will be carefully and securely placed in the problematic region of your heart. Finally, the incision is closed with the aid of several sutures (stitches) and a sterile dressing is applied over the wound to protect it from infections. The duration of this procedure also varies between 3 and 5 hours.
Valve repair or replacement surgery is recommended for a wide range of conditions concerning the four valves of the heart: aortic, mitral, tricuspid and pulmonic. Two of the most common conditions which can be successfully resolved by undergoing valve surgery are regurgitation (occurring when a valve does not close completely, thus allowing the blood to travel backwards) and stenosis (which happens when a valve does not open completely, preventing proper blood flow). However, there are numerous other heart affections, which can be efficiently cured by one of these interventions, including:
After the valve repair or replacement is completed and your incision is closed, you will be moved to the intensive care unit, where medical professionals will permanently motitor your vital signs for one or two days. The hospitalization time can vary between 5 and 10 days, depending on how fast you are recovering. If, however, postoperative complications arise, you will have to spend additional time in the hospital. Nevertheless, complications are quite rare and heart valve surgery is performed with great rates of success. Minimally invasive interventions generally entail a shorter recovery period. You will be intubated as soon as you are moved to the intensive care unit, so you will notice two or more of the following:
Pain and discomfort are normal for several days following surgery. You will be administered pain relieving medicine which will alleviate your postoperative symptoms, as well as antibiotics in order to prevent infection. Thorough recovery is typically achieved within two months. After you are discharged from the hospital, your physician will advise you to pay special attention to the following aspects for the rest of your life so that you will recover faster and avoid the forming of blood clots: