How is the heart valve replacement surgery preformed?
Before surgery, you may have an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), blood tests, urine tests, and a chest x-ray to give your surgeon the latest information about your health. You will be given something to help you relax (a mild tranquilizer) before
you are taken into the operating room.
An intravenous (IV) line will be inserted into your arm to deliver fluids and medications, and you will be given general anesthesia. A large incision will be made in the midline of your chest, and your breastbone will be sawn in half to expose your heart. After your heart is exposed, you will be placed on a heart-lung machine, a machine that oxygenates and pumps your blood during surgery. Your heart will be cooled and stopped temporarily. Once your heart is motionless, the surgeon will cut through its muscular wall to access and remove the malfunctioning heart valve, insert the prosthetic valve, and suture it into place.
After closing the incision in your heart wall, the surgeon will begin to warm your heart. If your heart does not start to beat again on its own after it has returned to normal temperature, the surgeon may need to trigger the heartbeat with an electric shock. Once it is clear that your heart is pumping steadily without leaking blood, you will be disconnected from the heart-lung machine. The surgeon will use wires to reattach the halves of your breastbone, your chest incision will be closed with standard sutures, and you will be taken to the cardiac surgical intensive care unit.
After one or two days in the cardiac surgical intensive care unit, you will be transferred to a regular hospital room. There you will continue to be monitored with daily blood tests and electrocardiograms until you are stable enough to go home. Depending on your doctor's routine treatment strategy, you may either have a repeat echocardiogram before you are discharged from the hospital, or you will have one as an outpatient.
The procedure outlined here is a conventional, open-chest procedure for valve replacement surgery. Recent technology has allowed surgeons to perform valve replacement or repair with less invasive techniques. This is not always an option and depends on whether the facility has the technology available. In some cases, the specific nature of the repair needed cannot be performed using the less invasive technology, and conventional surgery is required. The less invasive approach will most likely involve a shorter procedure time, reduced hospital stay, and quicker recovery.