Heart ValveRepair & Replacement

Overview

Heart Valve Repair & Valve Replacement

The heart’s valves may weaken as people age or because of certain heart diseases. When heart valve disease develops, you may experience debilitating – even life-threatening – shortness of breath or severe chest pain.

Valve repair and valve replacement are types of open heart surgery or minimally invasive catheterization procedures to fix problems in the four valves of the heart:

  • Aortic valve
  • Mitral valve
  • Pulmonic valve
  • Tricuspid valve

With each contraction of the heart muscle, these valves open to allow blood to flow through your heart’s chambers. Then they close to prevent blood from flowing backward (regurgitation).

This process allows blood to flow into, through and out of your heart. The heart propels blood from the upper chambers (atria) to the lower chambers (ventricles) and from right to left.

When other treatments don’t work, heart valve repair or replacement may be the answer. At Aurora Health Care, our expert surgeons have repaired and replaced hundreds of heart valves. We’re committed to helping people of all ages live better, with healthy hearts.

World-Class Care

Expert Heart Valve Repair & Valve Replacement

When you need heart valve repair and replacement, you may be concerned about what kind of procedure you’ll need. We work hard to make it easy for you to get the answers you need through our multidisciplinary valve clinic.

Every year, we help hundreds of people and their families choose the right valve repair or valve replacement treatment by offering:

  • Advanced technology: We continually update our technology to the most advanced tools, which we use very effectively. Whenever we can make a procedure less invasive, we do – so that your recovery can be faster and easier. Read more about our cardiovascular surgery.
  • Top medical providers: Some of our doctors and surgeons have honed their skills for years at Aurora. Others have joined us more recently, excited about what we’re doing. They all share a passion for healing your heart. Meet our cardiovascular and thoracic team.
  • Collaborative care: Our cardiologists (heart specialists), heart surgeons and interventional cardiologists (doctors who specialize in cardiac catheterization) work closely together to plan your care. We never forget that you’re part of the team. We’ll talk with you about your needs and wishes to make the right treatment choice.
  • Innovative care: We offer all types of heart valve repair and replacement. In addition to surgical excellence, we are known as the Midwest’s leading provider of minimally invasive aortic valve replacement. Learn more about transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

Types of Valve Disease

There are two common types of heart valve disease:

  • Regurgitation: When valves lose their shape and don’t close properly, blood backs up in a chamber instead of flowing completely through it.
  • Stenosis: Calcium buildup and the aging process make the valves too narrow or stiff to fully open. It becomes difficult for blood to flow through them freely.

Aortic stenosis is the most common type of heart valve disease. Possible symptoms include:

Left untreated, 50% of people with this serious condition are not expected to live more than 2 years. Fortunately, heart valve repair and replacement offer hope.

Treatments

Our Heart Valve Repair & Valve Replacement Treatments

Valve repair restores the valve’s shape, so it works more efficiently.

For regurgitation, we can perform a valve repair using special stitches or a ring to tighten the valve. This procedure is known as a ring annuloplasty.

We can also repair heart valves using minimally invasive, catheter-based procedures performed in our cardiac catheterization lab.

Minimally Invasive Valve Repair

People who have valve disease now have even more options for minimally invasive valve repair. In transcatheter valve replacement or repair, we access the heart by inserting a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) through a blood vessel.

We offer these interventional cardiology procedures:

  • MitraClip: In the past, repairing a leaky mitral valve (mitral valve regurgitation) required open heart surgery. We offer the FDA-approved MitraClip procedure for people with mitral valve disease. In our cardiac catheterization lab, we insert the small MitraClip device, which holds the mitral valve closed. The procedure is fast and effective.
  • Balloon valvuloplasty: In another minimally invasive technique, we thread a small balloon through a blood vessel from your groin to your heart. We inflate the balloon to stretch the heart valve.
  • Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR): We have completed more than 1,000 transcatheter procedures to replace the aortic valve. Learn more about transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

Kinds of Replacement Heart Valves

We use two types of valves for valve replacement:

  • Mechanical valves, manufactured from durable materials, usually last throughout the patient’s life. We can implant mechanical valves through catheter-based procedures or open heart surgery.
  • Tissue valves, also known as bioprosthetics, are made from cow or pig valves or other tissue. They may have a metal stent surrounding them.

What to Expect

Heart Valve Repair & Valve Replacement Procedures

We offer heart valve repair and replacement through either traditional open heart surgery or minimally invasive cardiac catheterization. Whenever possible, we use robotic tools and the latest small-incision approaches to help you recover quickly and safely after surgery.

Open Heart Surgery for Heart Valve Repair or Replacement

Heart valve repair or replacement done as open heart surgery generally involves these steps:

  1. Your surgeon makes an incision down the middle of your breastbone.
  2. We connect you to a heart-lung bypass machine, which allows the surgeon to stop your heart during the procedure. The machine keeps your blood circulating while the heart is stopped.
  3. Your surgeon repairs or replaces the faulty heart valve.
  4. We make sure the new valve is working correctly by performing a follow-up heart ultrasound (echocardiogram).

After Heart Valve Surgery

You’ll probably go home about four to six days after your heart valve repair or replacement. Most people recover enough to return to normal activities in four to six weeks. People whose jobs involve heavy work may need to recover a bit longer.

Your doctor may recommend cardiac rehab after surgery to regain your strength. We offer cardiac rehabilitation at locations throughout eastern Wisconsin.

Anticoagulants to Prevent Blood Clots

Depending on the type of valve repair or replacement, you may have to take an anticoagulant (a drug that helps keep your blood from clotting, also known as a blood thinner) for the short or long term. The most common anticoagulant is warfarin.

If you need an anticoagulant, you’ll receive instructions before you are discharged. After you return home, you can get more help with anticoagulants at our anticoagulation clinics.

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