Your Healthcare Team Heart Valve Disease


Heart valve surgery is a delicate operation that takes a team of experienced and dedicated healthcare professionals. Depending on your condition, your team may include the following people:

  • Heart (cardiac) surgeon – This is the person who opens the heart, does the heart valve repair or replacement, and closes the heart when the surgery is finished. The cardiac surgeon is the professional your cardiologist or other doctor referred you to once he or she suspected that you had heart valve disease.
  • First assistant – While the cardiac surgeon concentrates on repairing or replacing your heart valve, the first assistant manages other medical or surgical needs that may arise away from the heart. The first assistant may be another surgeon, a surgical resident, a physician's assistant, or a specially trained health professional.
  • Interventional cardiologist – Some heart valve procedures can be done without opening the chest and stopping the heart. In such cases, an interventional cardiologist may work with the surgeon to pass a narrow tube (catheter) through an artery to repair or replace the defective valve.
  • Anesthesiologist – During surgery, you have to be placed in an unconscious state. The anesthesiologist uses a variety of drugs to make sure you stay asleep during the operation. Then, when the surgery is completed, the anesthesiologist gently brings you back to consciousness.
  • Perfusionist – Some heart valve operations require that the heart be stopped. The perfusionist is in charge of the heart/lung machine that keeps blood flowing through your body while your heart is at rest. When your surgery is complete, the perfusionist and the surgeon work together to restart your heart.
  • OR nurses – The cardiac surgeon is assisted by a team of nurses who are very familiar with heart valve operations.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.