A normal functioning aortic valve has three leaflets, usually referred to as cusps, and is positioned at the end of the left ventricle. This valve is the main pump that delivers oxygenated blood to the entire body. An aortic valve replacement is required if someone suffers from Aortic Valve Stenosis or Aortic Valve Insufficiency. These two issues can cause a significant number of problems and can be life threatening. Understanding the components that are involved in an aortic valve replacement is important, especially if you are considering one.
When to Consider Aortic Valve Replacement
As already mentioned, there are two reasons as to why someone would need an aortic valve replacement. When suffering from aortic stenosis, the valve is narrow, causing it to be harder for the blood to go through. Basically, the muscle in the heart begins to thicken, causing a hissing sound, which is oftentimes confused with a murmur. With aortic valve insufficiency, the valve tends to “leak” when it is closed. This make the heart work twice as hard to make the blood flow correctly and into the right direction. To repair this, doctors have created a minimally invasive technique that is much safer and easier on patients.
What to Consider Aortic Valve Replacement
Since the breastbone is not being cut into, this replacement procedure is called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, which allows for healing to begin and end much faster. Your doctor will make a small, approximately two inch, incision between the third and fourth rib bone on the right side of the body. From this point, your doctor can securely place the new valve on the heart, exposing it just enough to see and remove what needs to be removed. Often times, doctors have to remove calcified material from the heart in the process. With previous techniques, doing this left people at a higher risk for strokes. Using this technique, however, lowers the chances of a patient having a stroke because it gives the doctor direct vision on all calcifications.
After the valve has been secured into place and all calcifications have been removed, the doctor will then insert a long-lasting local anesthetic that is injected between the ribs and directly below the incision. Then the wound will be closed, and the patient will typically stay the night in the hospital. The next day it is encourage that aortic valve replacement patients do some sort of light physical activity, usually walking. After another day or two in the hospital, patients are released and ready to go home.
Oftentimes, patients ask ‘how long does an aortic valve replacement last.’ That’s a reasonable question! The answer is that it depends on the patient’s actions. If they take care of themselves and follow their doctors’ advice, the replacement can last for many years.
Choosing a minimally invasive valve replacement is a smarter choice than a traditional procedure because it allows you to feel less pain and have shorter recovery times. If you’re considering an aortic valve replacement, consider using Dr. Ciuffio, who has the experience and expertise needed to help you thrive.