What is Aortic valve repair?
A healthy heart maintains normal blood flow in its four chambers. This function is performed by its four valves, which open and close during each heartbeat. Proper valve opening and closing ensure that blood flows in the right direction through the heart. The aortic valve separates the heart and aorta. The aortic valve opens for blood to flow out and closes to keep blood from leaking backwards into the heart. The Aortic valve is an essential part of your heart and if it does not function properly, then you may need Aortic valve repair surgery. Your doctor will recommend aortic valve repair surgery for the following heart conditions:
- In Aortic valve stenosis (narrowed valve opening), where the leaflets become thick or stiff, and the valve is unable to open completely, resulting in reduced blood flow from the left ventricle into the aorta. This can occur due to hereditary factors, aging, rheumatic fever, or build-up of calcium or cholesterol on the leaflets. When Aortic stenosis is left untreated, it can lead to heart failure or death.
- In Aortic valve prolapse (bulging valve), where the Aortic valve leaflets are floppy or loose. Aortic valve prolapse leads to Aortic valve regurgitation.
- In Aortic valve regurgitation (leak in a valve), where the blood flows backward into the heart causing the heart to work harder to pump blood, and the leaking valve needs to be corrected. This leaking can occur because of a heart defect, damage from a heart attack, advanced age, or even a bacterial infection in your valve.
Once the Aortic valve is damaged it loses its ability to pump blood. Therefore an Aortic valve repair surgery (annuloplasty or a valvuloplasty) could be recommended.
How is Aortic valve repair surgery performed?
The Aortic valve repair is performed under general anaesthesia. You will be placed on a bypass machine that keeps blood circulating through your body and your lungs functioning during surgery. Your surgeon will make an incision through which the current Aortic heart valve will be repaired with an annuloplasty or a valvuloplasty:
In the case of Aortic valve regurgitation or Aortic valve prolapse – An annuloplasty is recommended when blood can leak backwards through the valve or the Aortic valve opening is loose. The Aortic valve has three leaflets. In an annuloplasty, the doctor inserts a catheter with a clip attached to an artery in the groin and guides it to the Aortic valve and the clip is used to reshape the Aortic valve. Then the doctor sews a band to the existing ring around the valve and tightens the ring (annulus) around a valve in the heart. The band may be rigid or flexible.
In case of Aortic valve stenosis (narrowed valve opening) – When the Aortic valve opening is stiff or tight then valvuloplasty is recommended. This can also be treated with a catheter procedure called balloon valvuloplasty. During this procedure, the doctor inserts a catheter with a balloon on the tip into an artery in your arm or groin and guides it to the Aortic valve. The doctor then inflates the balloon, which expands the opening of the Aortic valve, after which the balloon is deflated, and the catheter and balloon are removed. Valvuloplasty improves blood flow through your heart and reduces your symptoms. However, the valve may narrow again. You may need to have another valvuloplasty or Aortic valve repair surgery or Aortic valve replacement surgery in future.
What happens after an Aortic valve repair surgery?
After your surgery, you will be shifted to the intensive care unit (ICU) depending on your condition and surgery.
- Your medical team will monitor your condition for signs of infection in your incision sites.
- Your team will monitor your blood pressure, breathing and heart rate.
- Your medical team will instruct you to walk regularly to gradually increase your activity, to cough and to do breathing exercises as you recover.
- After Aortic Valve Replacement, your physician will advise you to avoid foods that are high in sugar and sodium. This includes processed foods and baked goods that may contain artificial preservatives.
- Follow-up appointments are important and will help your doctor determine whether you are ready to resume your everyday activities, such as working, driving and exercise.
What are the complications of Aortic valve repair surgery?
The possible complications of Aortic valve repair surgery include the following:
- Bleeding during or after the surgery
- Blood clots which can cause heart attack, stroke, or lung problems
- Breathing problems
- abnormal heart rhythms
- The repaired valve does not work correctly
Life after an Aortic valve repair:
Full recovery can take a few weeks or up to several months, depending on your rate of healing and the type of surgery performed.
- An echocardiogram is recommended annually to monitor valve function.
- Your doctor may instruct you to make healthy lifestyle changes including physical activity, a healthy diet, stress management and to avoid tobacco use.
- Your doctor may recommend you to participate in the cardiac rehabilitation program of education and exercise. This is designed to help you recover, improve your overall cardiovascular health and reduce the chances of a heart attack, heart failure or other complications with the aortic valve in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What are the functions of the 4 heart valves?
The heart has 4 valves:
- The mitral valve and tricuspid valve controls blood flow from the atria to the ventricles.
- The aortic valve and pulmonary valve controls blood flow out of the ventricles.
What are the symptoms of aortic valve problems?
In some cases, aortic valve issues may not show any external symptoms, however, in case they do exhibit then it may include Heart Murmurs, Angina or Chest pain, irregular heart rhythm, Difficulties with breathing and Bouts of fainting.
What are the treatment options for heart valve disorder?
There are two options for heart valve disorder, they include the following:
- Valve repair is used for mitral valves that become loose and leak but are not seriously damaged.
- Valve replacement is used for mitral valves that are seriously damaged. The diseased valve is replaced with a new valve (mechanical valves or biological valves).