The decision to have heart valve surgery often raises many questions and concerns. Patients may wonder what will happen during the procedure or how it will affect their lives in both the short and long terms. Or you may simply need to know how to best prepare for this type of surgery. The Heart Valve Repair Program's specialists are familiar with these concerns and questions and are committed to providing patients with the answers and support they need.
What are the risks of heart valve surgery? As with any surgical procedure, patients undergoing heart valve surgery are at risk of infection, reaction to anesthesia or excessive bleeding. Other risks specific to heart valve surgery may include abnormal heart rhythms, valve leakage, blood clots, stroke, heart failure and death. Surgeons will review a patient's specific risk for death.
Do I have a say in the type of heart valve surgery that I receive? Montefiore's Comprehensive Heart Valve Repair Program involves patients in all decisions regarding their care. Patients meet simultaneously with members of the medical and surgical teams to develop a plan of treatment that is best suited to their physical condition, age and type of valve disease. Other factors that may be taken into consideration during this process include the patient's ability to adhere to a strict medication regimen, and for women, their interest in getting pregnant. All patient treatment plans are reviewed by senior members of the Heart Valve Repair Program's team to ensure that they will achieve optimal results.
Why is heart valve repair preferred over heart valve replacement? Heart valve repair is the preferred form of treatment for complex valve disease because it allows patients to retain their own heart valve and avoid the lifelong use of blood thinners. Patients who are able to keep their own heart valves may also enjoy an improved quality of life, preserved heart function and a reduced risk of stroke and infection (i.e., endocarditis).
How is heart valve surgery performed? Today, several minimally invasive heart valve procedures are available for patients requiring valve repair or replacement. A distinct advantage to minimally invasive procedures is that they allow the physician to access the surgical site without going between a patient's ribs.
What are the criteria for minimally invasive surgery? As often as possible, surgeons at Montefiore use minimally invasive techniques to repair or replace heart valves. In select cases, however, patients are precluded from these types of surgeries by their physical condition or age. Prior to surgery, patients are evaluated by senior members of the Heart Valve Repair Program's medical and surgical teams to determine whether they meet the criteria for a minimally invasive approach. Individuals who do not qualify for these procedures have access to a full host of open surgical procedures at Montefiore.
When is a cardiopulmonary bypass machine needed during valve surgery? The use of the cardiopulmonary bypass machine is required in all types of valve procedures. Stented valves, which do not require a cardiopulmonary bypass machine, are still in experimental trials.
How long are recovery times? Recovery time depends largely upon the condition and strength of the patient. Typically, patients remain hospitalized between four and five days following surgery. Once discharged, patients should expect it to take several weeks to ease back into their regular daily activities.
Will I be able to return to my normal activities after surgery? Following valve surgery, patients typically return to normal, or better than normal, activity levels.