Heart valve surgery is a minimally invasive surgery that is used to repair and replace the heart valve. Heart valves are found in different areas of the heart separating the chambers of the heart as well as the arteries of the heart. Surgery on the heart valve is completely different from other types of heart surgery. Heart surgery does not always require the chest cavity to be opened. With advanced technology, heart valve surgery is now done through a totally separate part of the body. This new procedure has tremendous benefits which allow you to get back to your normal activities much quicker.
The heart valve is important in the process of blood flow. When the heart valve is diseased, surgery is necessary to repair the problem. The heart valve may become hardened and stiff resulting in stenosis (a narrowing of the heart valve). The heart valve may also become scarred or thickened from other bacterial infections such as strep throat and rheumatic fever. Whatever the disease is, it is necessary to repair the heart valve, especially if it is causing heart problems. The diseased valve may not seem like a big deal initially but over time, it can lead to heart failure.
Heart Valve Surgery Options
Heart valve surgery no longer requires the chest cavity to be opened. Open heart surgery is still required for certain types of heart problems. The surgery is much longer and recovery time is more tedious. Some complications include bleeding, discomfort during recovery, stroke risk, and infection. Now there is a much quicker and safer way to perform heart valve surgery. This surgery is not performed through the chest cavity at all, but the leg. Yes, I said the leg. How in the world does the leg connect to the heart? Well as you know, blood flows from the heart to other areas of the body through a series of blood vessels. Those blood vessels are a direct path not only to the heart but also to the valves of the heart. To repair a valve, you have to get inside the heart, and the best way to do that is through the vessels.
Heart Surgery Through the Leg
The leg contains larger vessels that make it easier to travel to the heart. The process requires a catheter. The catheter is long and skinny, and it can travel through the vessels. It carries either the replacement valve or the piece needed to repair the valve. If the valve is being replaced, the catheter has a balloon on the end of it which opens to put the new valve in place. A clip may also be put in place to repair a valve. Local anesthesia is needed. This form of surgery is much quicker. Since there is only a small incision made in the leg, recovery time is faster than with open heart surgery. There is also little discomfort. The risk of infection is minimal since the hospital stay is short.
Not everyone is a candidate for this type of surgery. Sometimes open heart surgery is necessary to repair the heart valve but in most cases it is not. There are other methods of surgery that include making tiny cuts in the chest. These tiny cuts allow for surgical tools and a camera to enter. The camera displays an image on a screen so the surgeon can see what they are doing. This surgery is also considered to be minimally invasive because it does not require 3-inch cuts that open the chest but cuts that are only about 1/2 to 3/4 inches. Since this surgery does not require the use of your hand, the incisions can be smaller.
Benefits of Heart Valve Surgery
Heart valve surgery can benefit your life. When the heart valve is diseased, it results in heart problems that affect your overall health. Before surgery, you may have been experiencing a tremendous amount of fatigue along with shortness of breath. You probably could not complete your normal daily activities without feeling faint or dizzy. After surgery, your energy should be back to normal. You should be able to do your normal activities. Heart valve surgery improves your quality of life and will allow you to live longer. When your heart begins to fail, treatment becomes difficult. By fixing your heart valve problems, you prevent heart failure from even happening. Your heart will begin to beat normally and become strong again.
Heart valve surgery does not have to be frightening. With the advances in technology, heart valve surgery does not always require the opening of the chest cavity. In more serious cases, that may be necessary but in mild cases, it is not. The heart valves are small, but they play a huge role in heart health. A leaky valve or narrow valve should be monitored. Most physicians will not automatically do surgery if the heart is not being affected. If you begin to feel the symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, or fainting, it means the heart is being impacted, and surgery is necessary. The sooner you have the surgery done, the quicker you can get back on your feet. If you are having valve problems, make sure to speak with a cardiothoracic surgeon. Do not put the issue on the backburner, because it could be the difference between living a long healthy life or living with heart failure.
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