Is It Right for You? Aortic and Mitral Valve Replacement

Treating a Diseased Heart Valve

There are several ways to treat a diseased heart valve — with medication, by repairing it, or by replacing it.

Every patient's condition is unique and each doctor has a unique approach to treatment. Together, you and your doctor will determine if heart valve replacement surgery is the best treatment for your particular condition.

Heart Valve Replacement Surgery

Valve replacement surgery is an effective way to treat problem valves. This procedure has been performed for decades. It is generally an effective safe procedure that can help many patients like you live healthy, active lives.

Two types of artificial (prosthetic) replacement valves are available for surgical implantation. One is a mechanical valve that is made of durable materials; the other is made of tissue. Tissue valves can be donated human heart valves or they can be made from animal tissue. Your condition is unique, so the kind of prosthetic valve used will be a decision you and your doctor make together.

Your doctor will get information about your heart valve condition by performing tests including any or all of these:

  • Listening to your heart to hear the valves opening and closing and the rush of blood through them
  • Performing an echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to produce detailed images of your heart. This is the most common test used to find out if a heart valve can be repaired. But often, direct inspection during surgery is the only way to find out.
  • Conducting a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study, which uses a magnetic field and radio waves to get detailed images of the inside of your heart
  • Taking an x-ray image of your chest to check your heart, its major vessels, and your lungs for abnormalities
  • Using an electrocardiogram (ECG) to measure the electrical impulses given off by your heart. An ECG gives your doctor important information about your heart's rhythm and its size.

Make sure you get answers to all your questions and that you understand completely why a particular valve was chosen for you.

Should I Get a Mechanical Valve or a Tissue Valve?

There are advantages and disadvantages with either choice. Your doctor can provide more details. A mechanical valve lasts longer than a tissue valve, but you'll have to be on blood-thinning medication for the rest of your life to reduce the risk of blood clots. The main advantage of a tissue valve is that it does not typically require blood-thinning medication.

You and your doctor will decide together which option is best for you.