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Heart valve surgery repairs or replaces a damaged heart valve. There are four valves in your heart. They are the mitral, aortic, tricuspid, and pulmonary valves. These valves open and close to keep blood flowing in the proper direction through your heart. When the heart valves don't close as they should or are very tight and narrow, blood doesn't flow through the heart the right way.
The most common way to do heart valve surgery is through a large cut, called an incision, in the chest. This is called open-chest surgery. During the surgery, a heart-lung bypass machine is used. It adds oxygen to the blood and moves the blood through the body. This machine will allow the doctor to stop your heartbeat while working on your heart.
In some cases, other types of heart valve surgery may be an option. These include surgery that is done without stopping the heart and surgery that is done through smaller incisions in the chest.
You may stay in the hospital for 3 to 8 days after surgery. You will probably be able to do many of your usual activities after 4 to 6 weeks. But for 2 to 3 months you will not be able to lift heavy objects or do activities that strain your chest or upper arm muscles.
After you recover, you will probably feel better than you did before you had the surgery. For example, you may no longer have shortness of breath and fatigue. But you may still have heart problems.
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.
Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.
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Current as of: December 16, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & John A. McPherson MD, FACC, FSCAI - Cardiology
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