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What Can I Expect from Aortic Valve Replacement Surgery?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Aortic valve replacement surgery may become necessary if the valve between the aorta and the left ventricle of the heart is not able to open and close properly. Those with a medical condition known as aortic stenosis are the most likely patients to require this type of surgical procedure. Considered a form of open-heart surgery, replacement of this valve is an invasive procedure that may take several hours to complete. During aortic valve replacement surgery, the patient is often connected to a specialized machine that controls heart and lung function until the operation has been completed. There are several types of procedures that may be used during aortic valve replacement surgery, and any individualized questions or concerns should be discussed with the supervising physician.

Aortic stenosis is the most common reason for aortic valve replacement surgery. The aorta is the primary artery of the heart and is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body. The walls of the aorta may begin to thicken as a person ages or as the result of certain disease processes. Over time, the aortic valve may stop opening and closing properly, resulting in improper blood flow. When this occurs, aortic valve replacement surgery may become necessary.

Traditional aortic valve replacement surgery involves opening the chest cavity and connecting the patient to a heart-lung machine. The blood is pumped into the machine, where it is supplied with oxygen and then returned to the body for the duration of the procedure. The defective heart valve is then surgically removed and replaced with a synthetic valve. This new valve can be made of completely man-made materials or may include tissue from an animal, such as a pig or cow. Following the procedure, the patient is removed from the heart-lung machine, the chest cavity is wired together, and the incision is closed.

Less invasive surgical procedures may be performed in some cases, although the traditional approach is used in most situations. In many cases, a pacemaker is implanted during this surgery to help regulate the heart rate. Following aortic valve replacement surgery, the patient typically spends several days in the hospital for close observation in order to ensure that there are no complications, such as excessive bleeding or infection. The medical staff will provide detailed instructions concerning recovery and activity limitations before the patient leaves the hospital, and a follow-up visit with the surgeon or supervising physician will be scheduled.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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