The illustration shows a cross-section of a healthy heart, including the four heart valves. The blue arrow shows the direction in which oxygen-poor blood flows from the body to the lungs. The red arrow shows the direction in which oxygen-rich blood flows from the lungs to the rest of the body.
The heart has four valves: The aortic valve, tricuspid valve, pulmonary valve and mitral valve. Your doctor may recommend repairing or replacing your heart valve(s), even if you do not yet have symptoms of heart valve disease. This can prevent lasting damage to your heart and sudden death.
Having heart valve repair or replacement depends on a number of factors, including:
- How severe your valve disease is.
- Your age and general health.
- Whether you need heart surgery for other conditions, such as bypass surgery to treat CAD. Bypass surgery and valve surgery can be done at the same time.
When possible, heart valve repair is preferred over heart valve replacement. Valve repair preserves the strength and function of the heart muscle. People who have valve repair also have a lower risk for endocarditis after the surgery, and they don't need to take blood-thinning medicines for the rest of their lives.
However, heart valve repair surgery is harder to do than valve replacement. Also, not all valves can be repaired. Mitral valves often can be repaired. Aortic or pulmonary valves often have to be replaced.
Repairing/Replacing Heart Valves
Heart valves can be repaired by:
- Separating fused valve flaps
- Removing or reshaping tissue so the valve can close tighter
- Adding tissue to patch holes or tears or to increase the support at the base of the valve
Heart surgeons do most heart valve repair surgeries. Cardiologists do some repair surgeries using cardiac catheterization. Although catheterization procedures are less invasive, they also may not work as well for some patients. You and your doctor will decide whether repair is appropriate and the best procedure for doing it.