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Valvuloplasty for Aortic Valve Stenosis: Before Your Surgery

Balloon valvuloplasty, showing location of the balloon in the heart and the difference between the aortic valve before valvuloplasty and after the procedure

What is valvuloplasty?

Valvuloplasty is a procedure that widens a heart valve that is narrow. When you have a condition called aortic valve stenosis, the valve between your heart and the large blood vessel that carries blood to the body (aorta) is narrow. That forces the heart to pump harder to get enough blood through the valve.

The procedure to widen the valve is also called valvulotomy or valvotomy. It can help the valve work better and improve blood flow through the valve. If you are having symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or passing out (syncope), this procedure may help you feel better. The procedure is often done before valve replacement surgery.

During this procedure, the doctor puts a thin, flexible tube called a catheter into a blood vessel in your upper leg (groin). The doctor moves the catheter through that blood vessel and into your heart. The doctor puts a dye into the tube. This dye makes your heart show up on a screen so that the doctor can see the aortic valve.

The catheter has a small balloon at the tip. When the tube reaches the narrow heart valve, the balloon is inflated and deflated. Your doctor might do this a few times. The balloon widens the valve opening. Then your doctor removes the balloon and tube from your body.

A cardiac ultrasound test is usually done after, and sometimes during, the procedure.

You likely will stay overnight in the hospital after this procedure.

Your groin may have a bruise and feel sore for a day or two. You can do light activities around the house. But don't do anything strenuous for several days.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How do you prepare for the procedure?

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about when to bathe or shower before your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You may get medicine that relaxes you or puts you in a light sleep. The area being worked on will be numb.
  • The procedure will take a few hours.
  • After the procedure, pressure will be applied to the area where the catheter was put into your blood vessel. Then you may have a bandage or a compression device at the catheter insertion site. You might also have stitches there. This will prevent bleeding.
  • Nurses will check your heart rate and blood pressure. The nurse also will check the catheter site for bleeding.
  • You will need to lie still and keep your leg straight for several hours. The nurse may put a weighted bag on your leg to help you keep it still.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.