Regular Monitoring of Your Condition
No Symptoms or Mild Symptoms
If you don't have symptoms or if your symptoms are mild, your physician may simply monitor your condition on a regular basis.
- This might include an echocardiogram from time to time.
- Your doctor may also recommend you restrict your physical activity, depending on the severity of your symptoms.
Help Manage Symptoms
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe medications to help manage your symptoms. These may include:
- ACE Inhibitors
- Calcium Channel Blockers
- Diuretics (medicine that promotes the formation of urine)
Prevent Symptoms from Getting Worse
If you have mild symptoms, these medications may help prevent your symptoms from getting worse. At some point, however, surgical treatment may be necessary.
Severe Aortic Valve Damage
In most cases where aortic valve damage is severe, valve replacement is the standard of care. In rare cases, the valve can be repaired.
Traditional Aortic Valve Replacement Surgery
- During traditional aortic valve replacement surgery, your surgeon makes a six-to-eight-inch incision through the center of your breastbone, dividing it to allow access to your heart.
- In some cases, a partial sternotomy can be performed instead. This is a less invasive method of getting to the sternum, requiring a three-inch incision instead.
- Once your sternum is divided and your pericardium -- the membrane that surrounds your heart -- has been opened, you are placed on a heart-lung machine (bypass). It takes over the task of breathing and pumping your blood while your surgeon replaces your heart valve.
- Once you are on bypass, an incision is made in your aorta. Your surgeon then removes the diseased aortic valve and puts the replacement valve in its place.
- Once the valve is in place and your aorta has been closed, you are taken off the heart-lung machine.
- When the surgery is done, you will stay in intensive care for one to two days and remain in the hospital for a total of four to five days.
Types of Replacement Valves
Your damaged aortic valve can be replaced with either a valve taken or fashioned from a cow or pig's heart or with a mechanical valve made of carbon.
Made of porcine (pig) or bovine (calf) tissue.
- Do not typically require blood thinners and have an average durability of 10-15 years.
- Made of carbon.
- Last much longer than bioprosthetic valves.
- Patients with them must take a blood thinner (Coumadin) for life due to an increased risk of blood clots forming.
You should talk with your surgeon about the pros and cons of both options.