Heart Valve Replacement Summary

The heart valve replacement is designed to replace a natural heart valve with an artificial replacement. This is done when repair of the damaged heart valve is not possible. During this procedure it is typically the mitral or aortic valve that is replaced.

You may need heart valve replacement if you have:

  • Narrowing of a heart valve
  • A leaky heart valve

These things can be caused by:

  • Medication
  • Infection
  • Calcium deposits
  • Birth defect

Length of the procedure: 3 to 6 hours

Hospital Stay: Generally you will be hospitalized 3 to 7 day after you have a heart valve replacement surgery.

Recovery before traveling home: Patients seeking a heart valve replacement surgery through medical tourism can return home within 7 to 10 days in most cases.

Travel Tip: The hospital stay for this surgery can vary. For this reason, it is best to book a hotel for the full ten days. This will ensure that you have accommodations should it take longer for your doctor to release you for travel. If you are given approval to travel sooner you can always check out and depart earlier than planned.

Procedure Details

Your surgery will begin with the administration of general anesthesia. The surgical area will be prepped with a sterile draping and antiseptic liquid. To begin the surgery the surgeon will make a vertical incision in the center of the chest, and separate the breast bone.

Once the surgeon has access to your heart they will attach you to a heart and lung machine so they can operate on your heart. After this, the surgeon will remove the damaged valve. The new valve will be sewn in place. Then, you are removed from the heart and lung machine.

To complete the surgery, the breast bone is closed with wire, and the incision is closed with sutures. The surgeon may insert chest tubes for drainage. The area will be covered with a sterile dressing.

Types of artificial heart valves:

Mechanical - Made of synthetic materials and designed to mimic the natural heart valve.

Tissue - Taken from an animal.

Homografts - Taken from a human donor.

After the Procedure

After the procedure you will be taken to an intensive care unit for recovery. You will remain there for monitoring for around 24 hours in most cases. You will be given IV pain medication to ease discomfort. You may also have a breathing tube in place.

Once you are stable your breathing tube will be removed and you will be moved to a regular hospital room. You may also have a catheter to empty you bladder until you are more mobile. Tubes and monitors will be removed as your recovery progresses.

The average recovery rate after heart valve replacement surgery varies from patient to patient. In general you will begin to feel better and return to your normal routine after about 6 to 8 weeks. Physical therapy will be prescribed as a part of your cardiac rehabilitation.

Results

The success rate for this procedure is very high. Not only does this procedure prolong the lives of the patients who undergo it, but it also improves their life and relieves their symptoms in many cases.  In fact, 2 out of 3 patients who have this procedure are still alive 9 years after their procedure.

Risks and Complications

As is with any surgery there are risks associated with having a heart valve replacement surgery. The following is a list of the most common risks and complications:

  • Death in 2% to 5% of patients
  • Breathing problems
  • Reaction to anesthesia or medication
  • Bleeding and blood loss
  • Infection
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Post-pericardiotomy syndrome
  • Chest pain
  • Memory loss
  • Lack of mental clarity
  • Heart rhythm problems
  • Kidney failure

Contact your physician if:

  • Chest pain or shortness of breath is persistent
  • Pulse is irregular, slow, or fast
  • Dizziness or fainting occurs
  • Headache is severe and persistent
  • Fatigue is extreme
  • Cough is persistent
  • Redness, swelling or pain in calf develops
  • Cough has blood, or yellow or green mucus
  • Weight gain of 2 pounds in 1 day occurs
  • Wound is red, swollen, or has drainage
  • Wound opens
  • Fever above 101 degrees and or chills

If you are taking blood thinners call if:

  • You have a bad fall
  • You hit your head
  • Pain develops at the site of your surgical wound
  • Bleeding is excessive anywhere on your body
  • You have blood in your urine or stool
  • Headache, weakness or dizziness occurs
  • You become pregnant or are planning a pregnancy 
  • Fever or infection is accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea