Prior to Procedure
Your doctor will evaluate both your general health and the condition of your heart and circulation. Expect several heart tests, including an
Some patients may also have cardiac catheterization.
Leading up to your procedure:
Talk to your doctor about your medicines, herbs, or supplements. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, such as:
or other anti-inflammatory drugs
- Blood-thinning medicines
- Do not eat or drink anything the night before your procedure.
Description of the Procedure
An incision will be made along the length of your breast bone. The breast bone will be split lengthwise to expose your heart. You will then be put on a heart-lung machine. This machine takes over the work of your heart so that the doctor can stop your heart.
Your heart will be opened. A substitute valve will be sewn into place. This valve may be mechanical (metal and plastic), such as a St. Jude valve, or it may be made of tissue. Tissue valves most often come from a pig or a cow. Tissue valves may also be supplied by a human donor or even manufactured from your own tissues. When the valve is in place, you will be taken off the heart-lung machine and your heart will be re-started. The incision will be closed.
Mitral Valve Replacement
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Newer techniques, including
are being developed. These procedures will be able to do the same surgery with smaller incisions.
At the Hospital
You will probably spend 1-3 days in the intensive care unit (ICU) and several more days in a regular hospital room. During this time, your care team will:
- Observe you for any complications
- Stabilize your heart function
- Instruct you in home care and activities
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
- Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
- Not allowing others to touch your incisions
Be sure to follow your doctor's
instructions, which may include:
- If you have a mechanical valve, you will need to take blood thinners for life. This will help to prevent blood clots. If you have a tissue valve, you will need to take blood-thinning medicine for six weeks to three months after surgery.
- You may also need to take antibiotics during dental procedures and during certain other procedures. This will help prevent a valve infection.
- Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
- You will slowly return to your usual activities over a 4-12 week period. You may also be asked to participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program.
Mechanical valves can last a lifetime. Tissue valves last 7-14 years and then must be replaced. If your valve is repaired and you have no complications, you will likely do well and be able to return to normal activities.