Heart Valve Repair and Replacement Surgery
What is Heart Valve Disease?
A diseased heart valve may be one that does not close or open properly allowing blood to leak backwards and not sending enough oxygenated blood to other vital organs. As the heart senses the lack of blood flow, it pumps harder to compensate. In some cases the leaflets of the valve stiffen or fuse together, preventing full blood flow through the body and again forcing the heart to work harder.
Causes of valve problems range from infection to calcium build-up to coronary artery disease. In some cases, medications and lifestyle changes can alleviate symptoms and pain associated with a diseased valve. Often surgery is needed to repair or replace the valve itself. In some cases valves are not formed correctly before birth. Those are called congenital valve defects which most often affect the pulmonary and aortic valves and usually require surgery.
When can a Heart Valve be Repaired?
A valve which has become narrowed and stiffened due to calcium deposits can be repaired with surgery that widens the valve and permits better blood flow. Repairs can also be made to leaflets of the valve by patching areas that have become torn or need reshaping or support to close properly.
A valve that is too damaged must be removed and replaced with a prosthetic (artificial) valve made either from mechanical (plastic or metal) or biological materials (animal or human tissue). Mechanical valves generally last longer than biological, but require the patient to take blood-thinning medications for the rest of his or her life.
Traditional and Minimally Invasive Surgery
During traditional heart valve surgery, a surgeon will make an incision down the center of the sternum (breastbone) to access the heart directly.
Minimally invasive surgery is performed through smaller incisions. This type of surgery reduces blood loss, trauma, and length of hospital stay. Heart valve surgery is the most common minimally invasive procedure.
Surgeons affiliated with New York Methodist Hospital take advantage of the most advanced technologies available including minimally invasive surgery as well as minimally invasive robot-assisted surgery. Learn more about robot-assisted surgery here.
For more information on these procedures, call 718.780.7700.