Blood is pumped through your heart in only one direction. Heart valves play a key role in this one-way blood flow, opening and closing with each heartbeat. Pressure changes on either side of the valves reason them to open their flap-like “doors” (called cusps or leaflets) at just the right time, and then close tightly to prevent a backflow of blood.
When valves are damaged or diseased and do not work the way they should they may need to be repaired or replaced. Situation that may reason heart valve dysfunction are valve stenosis (stiffness) and valve regurgitation (leaky valve).
The heart is a pump made of muscle tissue. It has 4 pumping chambers: 2 upper chambers, called atria, and 2 lower chambers, called ventricles. Valves between each of the heart’s pumping chambers keep blood flowing forward through the heart.
Mitral valve- Located between the left atrium and the left ventricle
Aortic valve– Located between the left ventricle and the aorta
Tricuspid valve– Located between the right atrium and the right ventricle
Pulmonary valve- Located between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery
What is valve replacement?
Severe valve damage means the valve must be replaced and most often involves the aortic or mitral valve. It is also used to treat any valve disease that is life-threatening. Some patients may require more than one valve repaired or replaced.
Mechanical valves are generally made from materials such as plastic, carbon, or metal. Mechanical valves are strong, and they last a long time. Because blood tends to stick to mechanical valves and create blood clots, patients with these valves will require taking blood-thinning medicines (called anticoagulants) for the rest of their lives.
Biological valves are made from animal tissue (called a xenograft) or taken from the human tissue of a donated heart (called an allograft or homograft). Sometimes, a patient’s own tissue can be used for valve replacement (called an autograft). Patients with biological valves generally do not need to take blood-thinning medicines. These valves are not as strong as mechanical valves, though, and they may require to be replaced every 10 years or so.
Minimally Invasive Valve Surgery
Minimally invasive heart valve surgery is a technique that uses smaller incisions to repair or replace heart valves. This means there is less pain. Minimally invasive surgery also decreases the length of the hospital stay and the recovery time.