Introduction: What is a heart valve disease?
A heart valve disease refers to the condition in which one or more valves of the heart fail to function properly. If left untreated, it can disrupt regular blood circulation to the heart, and consequently lead to the death of the patient.
Heart valves diseases can be treated by either of the following two methods:
- Repair – In this method, an annuloplasty ring or is implanted to repair the damaged valve.
- Replacement – In this method, the person’s damaged valve is completely replaced by an artificial valve.
Diagnosis of heart valve disease
It is done by the following methods:
- Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
- Cardiac catheterization (angiogram)
In addition to these, the doctors may also recommend other tests such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE), and radionuclide scans.
Most of the time, heart valve repair or replacement is done by open heart surgery. During this process, the damaged valve is removed and replaced with an artificial one. However, sometimes heart valve surgeries are done without surgery. In such type of treatments, called as minimally invasive surgery, a valve is placed in the chest through a small incision done through the breastbone (the area located right under the center of the chest).
Before the heart valve surgery
Your surgeon will discuss with you in detail regarding what you need to do to prepare yourself for the surgery, including the duration of the surgery.
During the Surgery
You will be given anesthesia, hence will not feel any pain or discomfort during the process of surgery. The surgeon operates your chest and reaches the damaged valve of the heart. Since the operation is done on the heart, your heart will be temporarily stopped until the surgery is over. Instead, the surgeon will place a temporary heart/lung machine, which acts as an artificial heart performing the regular functions of your heart – pumping the blood.
When will the surgeon suggest minimally invasive heart valve surgery?
Well, it depends on the condition of your heart valve disease. For less complicated valve problems, the surgeons will likely opt for the minimally invasive technique. The main advantages of this type of heart valve replacement are:
- there are no scars
- it doesn’t pain much
- Quick recovery time
There are three types of incisions procedures. In minimally invasive surgery, surgeons use the mini incision procedure in which the heart valve replacement is done by making a small incision on the breastbone of the patient.
After the Procedure
Once the surgery is completed, the artificial heart machine will be removed and your heart will start beating on its own. You will be kept in the ICU for a considerable time, as your progress will be closely monitored by the doctors. Gradually, you will be moved to a general ward where your family members and friends can visit you.
Post your heart valve surgery, the doctor will recommend some medications and periodic visits to the hospital for further check-ups.