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Treatment: Heart Valve Replacement

Heart valves may need to be replaced if daily activities are affected by symptoms and the valve cannot be repaired by surgery. Replacement heart valves made of tissue may come from a human donor or from a pig’s heart. Valves may also be mechanical. Replacing heart valves involves open heart surgery. During the operation, the heart is stopped, and its function is taken over by a heart–lung machine (see Surgery using a heart–lung machine). You may need to stay in hospital for 7–14 days after surgery while you recover. If a mechanical valve is used, drugs that prevent blood clotting are taken for life to reduce the risk of clots forming on the valve.

Aortic valve replacement

The aortic valve is the most commonly replaced heart valve. An incision is made in the aorta, the major blood vessel from the heart, to gain access to the valve. The diseased valve is cut out, leaving a ring of tissue to which the replacement aortic valve is then stitched.

Replacement valves

Tissue valves have three cusps that open and close to control blood flow. In one type of mechanical valve, blood flow pushes a ball into a cage to allow blood through the valve.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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