The valves of the heart control the flow of blood and help it to move in one direction through the four heart chambers. Abnormalities in the valve impair the uni-directional flow of blood. If a valve does not close properly or is narrowed due to deposition, blood flow is restricted or may leak between the chambers. A minor valve problem can be treated with medications. However, severe heart valve damage necessitates surgical repair or replacement of the malfunctioning heart valve.
During valve replacement/repair procedure, a long incision is made at the centre of the chest. The breast bone is divided into 2 halves and separated to expose the heart. Blood from the heart is redirected to a bypass machine which performs the function of the heart. Your heart is stopped using a cold solution so that the beating of the heart does not interfere with the surgery. Your doctor may replace the malfunctioning valve with an artificial valve. In case of a valve repair, your doctor may separate a fused valve or repair a torn valve.
Following replacement or repair of the valves, blood from the bypass machine is redirected back into the heart. The heart is restarted to resume its functions. Your doctor monitors the heart for proper functioning of the valves. The breastbones are re-joined and sewn together with wire and the incisions are closed with sutures. Tubes are inserted into the chest to drain out excessive blood. A sterile bandage is applied on the site of surgery.
After the surgery, you will be shifted to the ICU and will remain on the ventilator until you are stable enough to breathe on your own. Your vitals are monitored. Once the ventilator is removed you may start a liquid diet and gradually advance to solid foods. You will then be able to gradually resume your normal activities.
Risks and complications of valve replacement/repair surgeries include: