Heart Valve Replacement Surgery
If severe damage is present, heart valve replacement surgery is required. Valve replacement is used to treat aortic valves and severely damaged mitral valves.
When severe damage is present, the valve will need to be replaced. Valve replacement can be used to treat valve disease that may be life threatening. More than one valve may be damaged in the heart, so it may be necessary for patients to have more than one repair or replacement.
The two kinds of valves used for replacement include:
Biological Valves: Biological valves are made from animal tissue; this is called a xenograft. They may also be taken from human tissue of a donated heart, in which case the graft is called an allograft or homograft. In some cases, a patient’s own tissue can be used for valve replacement (autograft). These valves are not as strong as mechanical valves and may need to be replaced after 10 years. Because they tend to break down faster in children and young adults, these types of valves are used in elderly patients. Patients with biological valves usually do not need to take blood-thinning medications.
Mechanical Valves: These valves are made from materials such as plastic, carbon, or metal. Mechanical valves are strong and can last a long time. Because blood can stick to the mechanical valves and create clots, patients with these valves will need to be administered blood-thinning medicines, anticoagulants, for the remainder of their lives.