artificial heart valve surgery

An artificial heart valve is surgically implanted into the heart to replace a heart valve that has been damaged by heart valve disease. Heart valve replacement surgery is performed when repairing the valve is not an option.

The heart has four valves: tricuspid (tri-CUSS-pid), pulmonary (PULL-mun-ary), mitral (MI-tul), and aortic (ay-OR-tik) valves. Each valve has a flap of tissue that opens and closes with each heartbeat. The function of the flaps is to ensure that blood flows in the correct direction — through the four chambers of the heart — and to the rest of the body.

Types of valvular heart disease

  • Stenosis occurs when the flaps of the valve thicken or fuse together. The heart valve does not open fully, and blood flow through the valve is restricted.
  • Valve prolapse can cause regurgitation or reflux. Also known as a leaky valve, prolapse occurs when the valve bulges back into the heart chamber during a heartbeat. Prolapse mainly affects the mitral valve.
  • Atresia occurs when the heart valve does not have an opening for blood to pass through.
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Heart valve disease can be congenital (before birth), it can develop over time, or it can be the result of an infection. Sometimes, the cause of valvular heart disease is unknown.

Heart valve disease has a variety of causes, including:

  • Congenital valvular heart disease: Congenital valvular heart disease can occur alone or in combination with other congenital heart defects. The most common congenital valvular heart disease affects the aortic or pulmonary valve.
  • Acquired heart valve disease: Acquired heart valve disease usually affects the mitral or aortic valve.
  • Rheumatic fever: Rheumatic fever is usually caused by an untreated bacterial infection. Complications may not appear until much later.
  • Endocarditis: Endocarditis is a bacterial infection that affects the heart valves, causing valve growth, holes, and scarring.


The main symptom of valvular heart disease is a heart murmur. However, some people may have a heart murmur without valvular heart disease. Other signs and symptoms of valvular heart disease include:

  • shortness of breath when tired
  • Swelling of extremities – ankles, feet, legs
  • swollen neck veins
  • chest pain when you are tired
  • arrhythmia
  • Dizziness
  • blurry
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After a heart murmur or signs of heart valve disease are detected, the following diagnostic tests can be performed:

  • echocardiography
  • chest x-ray
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • pressure test
  • Cardiac MRI


Patients may be asked to limit physical activities that make them short of breath or tired. Medications may be prescribed to treat the following conditions:

  • heart failure
  • hypertension
  • coronary heart disease
  • Arrhythmia

In valve replacement surgery, the damaged or defective valve is replaced with a biocompatible or mechanical valve that is sewn into the native valve annulus. Bioprostheses can be used for 10 to 15 years or more and are made from porcine, bovine or human heart tissue.

Mechanical valves last longer and do not need to be replaced, but patients need to take blood-thinning medications for the rest of their lives to prevent blood clots from forming on the valve.


Some complications of prosthetic heart valve surgery include:

  • bleeding
  • heart attack
  • Infect
  • stroke
  • Arrhythmia – irregular heartbeat