Surgical Valve Repair or Replacement

Surgical Treatments to Repair or Replace Heart Valves

Valve surgery is one of the many cardiac treatments provided by the expert doctors at Loyola Medicine. Skilled in both heart valve repair and replacement, cardiac surgeons at Loyola are proficient at evaluating your heart valve function and determining if surgery is right for your specific condition. 

Your heart has four valves: aortic, mitral, tricuspid and pulmonary. When functioning properly, each valve opens enough to allow blood to flow through, and then closes to prevent blood from flowing backwards. If the health of your valves has been compromised, you may experience:

  • Heart valve regurgitation — A leaky valve that does not close properly
  • Heart valve stenosis — A valve that does not open enough

From minimally invasive valve repairs to complex surgical interventions of multiple valves, Loyola’s multidisciplinary team of doctors has expertise in treating your diseased valves and ensuring your blood flows freely through your heart. 

Why Choose Loyola for Surgical Valve Repair or Replacement?

Loyola’s cardiology and heart surgery program is nationally recognized for our diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular conditions. We work with you to help you understand your condition and develop a treatment plan that is right for you.

What You Can Expect with Heart Valve Repair

Surgical valve repair and replacement is used to treat valvular heart disease caused by valve stenosis or regurgitation.

If you have been diagnosed with a heart valve problem, your doctor will work with you to determine the treatment option that is right for you. While valve repair is usually preferable to valve replacement, it is not always possible. Regardless of your treatment, doctors at Loyola will ensure that you have the best possible care.

Heart valve surgery can be performed with traditional open heart surgery or by using minimally invasive techniques, which include:

The surgical method used will depend on the severity of your valve condition and your overall health and prognosis. If open heart surgery is selected, you will be given anesthesia and a heart-lung machine will function as your heart throughout the surgery.

If valve repair is selected over valve replacement, there are two basic techniques your surgeon can use:

  • Ring annuloplasty — Your surgeon will repair the outer ring of the valve by replacing it with a ring made of tissue, cloth or metal
     
  • Valve repair — Your surgeon will repair your valve by reshaping, rebuilding or trimming one or more of the valve leaflets of the damaged valve or valves

If your surgeon is not able to repair your valve, valve replacement will be used as an alternative treatment option. During valve replacement surgery, your damaged valve will be removed and replaced with one of the following:

  • Bioprosthetic heart valve — A valve made of human or bovine tissue (cow tissue).  Bioprosthetic heart valves are quite durable and do not normally require you to take blood thinners for life.
     
  • Mechanical heart valve — A valve created from man-made materials such as titanium, stainless steel or ceramic. Mechanical heart valves last longer than other types of valves, but will require that you take blood thinners for the rest of your life to prevent blood clots from forming on the valve.
     
  • Pulmonary valve — Your own pulmonary valve is used to replace a damaged aortic valve. Your pulmonary valve is then replaced with an artificial valve in what is called the Ross procedure.

What Are the Risks of Surgical Valve Repair?

Doctors at Loyola work to mitigate the risks associated with surgical repair and replacement of your heart valves. However, as with any surgical procedure, there are risks, which can include:

  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Bleeding during or after your surgery
  • Blood clots
  • Breathing problems
  • Infection at the point of incision