Your cardiologist may refer you to a MedStar Health cardiac surgeon to repair or replace your heart valve if medication has failed to reduce the strain on your heart and has not alleviated symptoms.
Your cardiac surgeon may recommend one of the following surgeries, depending on your pathology and what is causing the problem:
- Heart valve repair is the preferred treatment option, because using your own tissue is better than replacing a heart valve.
- Heart valve replacement can be performed using a variety of valves, including mechanical and biological tissue valves (those from pig or cow tissue). Mechanical valves require the use of blood thinners but have good long-term durability. Biological valves do not require use of long-term blood thinner.
- Valve sparing is a relatively new technique used to treat aortic disease. Your heart surgeon can preserve your own valve while repairing the aorta.
Heart valve surgery (whether valves are repaired or replaced) is open-heart surgery that is done while you are under general anesthesia. A cut is made through the breastbone (sternum). Your blood is routed away from your heart to a heart/lung bypass machine. This machine keeps the blood circulating during your heart surgery.
Meet Heart Valve Patient Joanna Zimmerman
“To have a heart that allows me to live my life in all the ways I wanted to live my life…that feels like a tremendous blessing.” - photo caption
Joanna Zimmerman and her husband wanted to start a family, but Joanna was born with a heart valve problem and was told by multiple doctors that she should not have a child before the valve was fixed. Eager to start her family sooner rather than later, she sought out the experts at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute. After evaluating Joanna, the current state of her valve, reviewing the literature on similar cases and in consultation with her high risk obstetrician, it was determined that Joanna could proceed with a pregnancy. They were thrilled to welcome a healthy daughter.
A happy ending indeed, but there’s more. Wanting a big family, Joanna and her husband once again sought the advice of Dr. Ruiz and Dr. Corso at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute. At this point, though, her valve had narrowed to the point where having more children without intervention was not advised. Joanna had a successful surgery to replace her aortic valve and grew her family by two more!