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What is Heart Valve Surgery Print E-mail
Written by Jessica Smith   
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
There are 4 valves in the heart. They connect the 4 heart chambers. The valves help move the blood through the heart as it pumps. Valves that are not working properly can sometimes be repaired with surgery.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?
The following conditions may require heart valve surgery:
# heart valve defects that are present from birth, causing congenital heart disease
# heart valves that become narrow and stiff, blocking the flow of blood through the heart
# heart valves that leak, allowing blood to flow the wrong way through the heart
# heart valve infections, such as those caused by rheumatic fever

How is the procedure performed?
Some heart valve problems can be fixed with a a minimally invasive procedure. A narrow tube, called a catheter, is inserted into an artery in the groin. The catheter is threaded through the body into the heart. The surgeon repairs the heart valve using special tools inserted through the catheter. Most people, however, require open heart surgery for repair of heart valve defects. This is an extensive operation that is performed under general anesthesia.

Before the procedure, the person is put to sleep with general anesthesia. The chest area is first cleaned with antibacterial chemicals. Next, an incision is made into the breastbone or sternum to expose the heart. The person is then put on a heart-lung bypass machine. This device keeps the blood full of oxygen and blood circulating around the heart.

A heart valve operation can involve repair of the valve or a complete replacement. There are two types of replacement valves: artificial and biologic. Artificial valves are generally made of metal or plastic. Biologic valves may come from human organ donors or from animals such as pigs.

After the valve is repaired or replaced, the person is taken off the heart-lung machine. Once the person's heart is working again to pump the blood, the chest incision is closed. The person is taken off general anesthesia and sent to the surgery recovery room.


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