The aortic valve and the mitral valve are the most commonly replaced valves. Pulmonary and tricuspid valve replacements are fairly uncommon in adults.
Replacing a narrowed valve:
The most common surgical procedure for aortic stenosis, or narrowing of the aortic valve, is aortic valve replacement. Mitral stenosis is another condition that may require valve replacement or repair.
Replacing a leaky valve:
Aortic regurgitation (sometimes referred to as aortic insufficiency) is another common valve problem that may require valve replacement. Regurgitation means that the valve allows blood to return backward through the valve and into the heart instead of moving it forward and out to the body. Aortic regurgitation can eventually lead to heart failure.
Mitral regurgitation may also require a valve replacement. In this condition, the mitral valve allows oxygenated blood to flow backward into the lungs instead of continuing through the heart as it should. People with this condition may experience shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats and chest pain.
Surgical options for valve replacement include:
- Mechanical valve — a long-lasting valve made of durable materials
- Tissue valve (which may include human or animal donor tissue)
- Ross Procedure — “Borrowing” your healthy valve and moving it into the position of the damaged valve aortic valve and replacing the “borrowed” valve with a new valve.
- TAVI/TAVR procedure — Transcatheter aortic valve implantation/transcatheter aortic valve replacement
- Newer surgery options
The procedure chosen will depend on the valve that needs replacement, the severity of symptoms and the risk of surgery. Some procedures may require long-term medication to guard against blood clots.
You have options when choosing a heart valve. Survivor Robert Epps shares the factors that influenced his own heart valve choice:
Will my valve replacement require a “sternotomy” (opening of the chest bone)?
Valve replacement procedures may require a sternotomy or, in some cases, can be done using less invasive techniques through a series of small incisions through the chest or through the groin.
What should I expect after surgery?
Many people go on to live a full and healthy life.
Aortic valve replacement improves overall health, ability to perform daily tasks and quality of life for most people. Results are similar between replacing the aortic valves through open heart surgery or through a less invasive route that uses a catheter, such as TAVR.