Aortic Valve Replacement
What you should know
Aortic valve replacement is surgery to put a new aortic valve in your heart. Your aortic valve separates the lower section of your heart from your aorta. The aorta is the large blood vessel that carries blood from your heart to your body. Your aortic valve opens and closes to let blood flow from your heart. When your aortic valve does not open or close as it should, the amount of blood that your heart can pump to your body decreases.
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- You may bleed more than you should during or after surgery, and need a blood transfusion or more surgery. After your surgery, you may get an infection or have a stroke. Your new valve may not work right, or over time the new valve or area around it may become damaged. The new valve may be too small and worsen your condition. The problem you had before the surgery may come back or may still be there after surgery. You may need to have heart valve surgery again. Your heart may not beat as it should after surgery. Your heart may stop working.
- After surgery, you may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. The blood clot can break loose and travel to your lungs. This problem can be life-threatening. You may need to take medicine to prevent blood clots for the rest of your life after your surgery. Without surgery, you may get short of breath or tired more often. Blood and fluid could build up in your lungs, and your heart may start to fail.
Before your surgery:
- Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
- Vasodilator medicine: This medicine widens the blood vessels in the heart and allows blood to flow more easily.
- Tests: You may need to have blood drawn for tests. You may need to see a dentist to make sure you do not have an infection that can increase your risk of problems after valve surgery. Ask your caregiver for more information about these and other tests that you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.
- Ask someone to drive you home when you leave the hospital. Do not drive yourself home.
The night before your surgery:
- Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.
The day of your surgery:
- Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.
- Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
- You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
What will happen:
- You will be given general anesthesia medicine to make you sleep. One or more incisions will be made in your chest. Caregivers will connect your heart to a heart-lung bypass machine. This machine does the work of your heart and lungs while caregivers work on your valve.
- Your aortic valve will be removed and replaced with a tissue valve or mechanical valve. The new valve is sewn in place. Wires may be put into your chest to improve your heartbeat after surgery. The heart-lung bypass machine is removed, and your own heart and lungs will start working again. The incision in your chest will be closed with wire and stitches.
You are taken to the recovery room or an intensive care unit (ICU). Caregivers will watch you very closely. A bandage is used to cover your stitches or staples. This bandage keeps the area clean and dry to help prevent infection. A caregiver may remove the bandage shortly after surgery to check the incision. Do not get out of bed until your caregiver says it is OK. Your family may be allowed to visit you in the ICU for a short visit several times a day.
Contact a caregiver if
- You cannot make it to surgery on time.
- You have questions or concerns about your surgery.
- You have a fever.
- You feel more sick than usual, or your symptoms, such as breathing trouble, get worse.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
Learn more about Aortic Valve Replacement (Precare)
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