In most cases, the valve repair surgery is an open-heart operation. This means that the surgeon opens your chest and heart to repair the defective heart valve.

How long the heart valve repair surgery takes depends on how much heart disease is present. Your surgeon will discuss this with you before the operation.

To help you learn about the procedure, your doctor may suggest:

  • Talking with different members of the surgical team, such as the anesthesiologist, surgeon, cardiologist, respiratory therapist, and nurses
  • Discussing the details of the operation with family members
  • Visiting the intensive care unit (ICU) where you may be sent for postoperative recovery


During the operation, the surgeon opens your chest to get to your heart and the problem valve. You will be asleep during the operation and will feel no pain.

Some surgeons may prefer to perform the surgery through a small incision in the breastbone (sternum) or under the right pectoral muscle in your chest - these are called minimally invasive procedures.During the majority of procedures, your heart will be temporarily stopped, and you'll be put on a heart/lung machine that takes over your breathing and blood circulation. 

With recent advances in technologies and procedural techniques, more cardiac surgeons are using minimally invasive procedures to repair heart valves. These procedures may potentially reduce pain, scarring, and your recovery time. You and your doctor will decide if this is a practical procedure for your condition.

Depending on your heart valve defect your surgeon may perform one or several of these procedures as he or she repairs your heart valve depending on the nature of you heart valve defect:

  • Resizing the valve by removing extra tissue
  • Removing calcium deposits that may have built up around the valve leaflets 
  • Repairing the chords that control the movement of the valve leaflets
  • Reattaching the valve to its chords
  • Adding support to the base of the valve (annulus) by adding tissue or by sewing an annulus band or ring around the outside of the valve


When the heart valve has been repaired and the surgery is completed, your heart will begin beating again all incisions will be closed.

Following the surgery, you'll spend some time in the intensive care unit (ICU) where you will be closely monitored to make sure there are no complications. Family and friends will be able to visit while you are in the ICU.


In the intensive care unit (ICU), the staff will keep a close watch on your heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, and other vital body signs. You may feel a little uncomfortable because of all the monitoring equipment attached to you. The nurses will try to keep you as comfortable as possible. Friends and family are usually welcome to visit you.

When intensive care monitoring is no longer needed, you'll be moved to a regular hospital room. Typically, you will be in the hospital for 3 to 10 days, depending on how quickly you recover. Many patients are amazed at how much better they feel and how soon they can resume normal activities.


After you're released from the hospital, you will have to see your doctor for follow-up visits. During these visits, your doctor may order lab tests, such as an echocardiogram, an X-ray, or an electrocardiogram, to make sure you are healing properly.

Checking your weight every day is useful. Sudden increases in weight may be a sign that you're retaining water, which could be a warning sign. Be sure to ask your doctor about weight gain and how much is acceptable.

If you're taking anticoagulants, you need to have regular blood tests to monitor your dosage. You'll usually go periodically to a hospital, doctor's office, or laboratory to have these tests done.


Make sure your patient takes his or her medications exactly as prescribed by the doctor. Don't stop administering medications or skip a dose unless the doctor tells you to do so.