Your heart pumps the blood continuously into your blood vessels to fulfill the need for oxygen in your body cells. Heart valves play a vital role in blood circulation and maintaining the blood flow to organs. If your heart valve is prolapsed or narrowed then heart valve replacement surgery or heart valve surgery is required. A heart valve replacement surgery or repair of the valve is required. But here is a big question, can a heart valve replacement surgery be done without open heart surgery?
Functions of Heart Valves
Let’s understand first the functions of the heart valve and its role in blood circulation. Each day your heart beats around 100,000 times and pumps 7500 liters of blood. An adult’s heart pumps about 5 liters of blood every minute when you are at rest. But when you run or exercise, the heart may pump 3-4 times to ensure the blood supply and your body cells get enough oxygen and fuel to work.
The total blood passes through heart valves and completes a blood circulation cycle. This includes diastole and systole of the heart chambers and the flow of the blood from the body to the heart and from the heart to the body. Your heart has four chambers named Left atrium, right atrium, left ventricle, and right ventricle.
Types of Heart Valves
The heart is a pump and made of four muscle pumping chambers, two upper chambers are called atria and two lower chambers are called ventricles. Valves are situated between each of the heart’s chambers and help blood flow forward through the heart. There is a total of four valves in your heart.
The Pulmonary Valve
It is situated between the right ventricle and pulmonary artery which helps in pushing blood into the lungs for filtration.
It’s situated between the left atrium and left ventricle which allows blood to push from the left atrium to the left ventricle and prevents blood from going back into the left atrium when it’s closed.
The Aortic Valve
It is situated between the left ventricle and Aorta which allow fresh blood to move from the left ventricle to your arteries.
The Tricuspid Valve
It’s situated between the right atrium and right ventricle, which allows deoxygenated blood to move into the right atrium from the right ventricle and prevents blood from going back into the right atrium.
Why Heart Valve need to Be Replaced?
The valves of the heart are responsible for allowing blood to flow through the chambers of your heart. Each heart valve is supposed to close and open completely before and after ushering the blood. Diseased heart valves are not closed and get opened properly.
If a valve does not close properly it can lead to regurgitation of the blood. Some amount of blood goes back into the chamber if valve leaflets are not closed properly. And, if a valve is narrowed, it does not function properly and is called stenosis of the valve. A Narrow valve causes a less than normal amount of blood to flow from one chamber to the next or to the Pulmonary artery and Aorta.
Signs and Symptoms of Heart Valve Disease
- Chest Pain
- Fluid Retention
- Light Headedness
- Shortness of Breath
- Hemoptysis (Blood in Cough or Sputum)
Types of Replacement Valves Available
There are made of artificial stuff that has the same function as a natural heart valve. Mechanical valves are made of carbon and polyester materials that your body can tolerate well. This kind of valve can last between 10 to 20 years. But blood clots risk is involved with the mechanical heart valves. You will have to take blood thinners for the rest of your life to avoid the risk of blood clots and stroke.
These valves, are also called bioprosthetic valves and are made of human or animal tissues. Mainly three types of biological valves are available:
Homograft of Allograft – These valves are made of tissues taken from a Human donor’s heart
Bovine Valve – This kind of valve is made of cow tissues.
Porcine Valve – These are made from Pig tissues
The benefit of a biological valve is that you do not have a risk of developing clots. But the life of a biological wall is lesser than mechanical valves and you may require a replacement again on future dates.
Types of Valve Replacement Surgeries
The type of surgery depends on the site and valve involved. The most common valve replacement surgeries are Aortic valve replacement or Aortic valve repair, Mitral valve replacement and last is pulmonary valve replacement surgeries.
Aortic Valve Replacement
You may need surgery on the aortic valve if there is a congenital defect or a disease in the valve which causes malfunction of the leaflets of the valve resulting in aortic valve stenosis or aortic valve regurgitation. A recent study suggested that aortic valve replacement surgery has a 94-95 percent five-year survival rate which depends on the Patient’s age and overall health condition.
Mitral Valve Replacement
Mitral Valve is pleaded between the left atrium and left ventricle which allows blood to flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle and prevents blood from going back into the left atrium from the left ventricle when the mitral valve is closed. If the mitral valve is narrowed, it causes a less than normal amount of blood to flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle. This can lead to pressure in the lungs which is called pulmonary hypertension.
The malfunction of the valve can be due to congenital defects, infection, or degenerative changes. The defective valve can be replaced with either a biological valve or a mechanical valve.
Pulmonary Valve Replacement
The pulmonary valve separates the pulmonary artery, which carries deoxygenated blood from the right ventricle to the lungs. The need for pulmonary valve replacement is the stenosis of the valve, which restricts blood flow.
Can A Heart Valve Replacement Surgery Be Done Without Open Heart Surgery?
Yes, of course, heart valve replacement surgery can be done without open heart surgery. Minimal invasive surgeries are an alternative option to open heart surgeries. The risk of complications is less in minimally invasive heart replacement surgery. The stay in the hospital is also less if you go for minimally invasive heart replacement surgery. Apart from this Robotic Heart Valve Replacement is now an advanced technique in this field and is being accepted by most cardiac surgeons. The recovery rate of robotic heart surgery is faster than open heart surgery. The risk of infection, blood loss, and post-surgery complications are also minimal if compared with open heart valve replacement surgery.
But the options for robotic surgery are very limited. Robotic heart surgery options are not available in all states or cities. You will have to find out an expert doctor and a minimally invasive robotic cardiac surgery setup.
What Should I Do after Valve Replacement Surgery?
It requires 5-7 days’ hospitalization for open heart surgery. If your surgery is done minimally invasive technique or robotic valve replacement surgery, you might go home earlier.
Your doctor will advise some pain medications after discharge from the hospital as needed. You need to monitor your blood sugar, breathing, wound site, and heart function during the first few days of valve replacement surgery.
Full recovery takes from a few weeks to several months, depending on the type of surgery, your age, other medical ailments, and the healing process.
Infection is the most important factor to watch as this is the primary risk directly after surgery. Always connect with your cardiac surgeon or healthcare provider if you have symptoms that indicate infection.
- Swelling at the site of incision
- Increased drainage from the wound site
- Difficulty in breathing