Aortic Valve Surgery
In your heart, there are four one-way valves that help blood flow through the heart. Your aortic valve is responsible for pushing oxygenated blood from your left ventricle (the heart’s main pumping chamber) to your aorta (the main artery in your body).
When you have aortic valve disease, the valve doesn’t release blood as it should, causing blood flow to be limited or leaking some of the blood in the wrong direction. Aortic valve surgery can address these issues by replacing or repairing your valve.
As the only center in the state that performs a high volume of aortic valve repair surgeries every year, University of Iowa Heart and Vascular Center cardiac surgeons have the experience and expertise to treat your aortic valve disease. Our specialists will create a care plan to fit your individual needs, helping you manage your symptoms and lower your risk of complications such as heart failure or cardiac arrest.
Our approach to aortic valve surgery
There are two surgical approaches to aortic valve surgery. These include:
- Minimally invasive heart surgery: Your surgeon will make several smaller incisions instead of opening your whole chest for the procedure. This approach helps reduce blood loss and trauma. It also can mean a faster recovery.
- Traditional open-heart surgery: Your surgeon will make a large incision down the center of your chest to perform the procedure.
Before surgery, your provider may order certain preoperative tests to assess your health before surgery, including chest X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, echocardiograms, electrocardiograms (EKG), and blood or urine tests.
The approach to your surgery will depend on the nature of your disease, whether you have other heart problems, and your overall health. Your surgeon will discuss which option will have the best outcomes based on your individual needs.
Types of aortic valve surgery
There are two types of aortic valve surgery:
- Surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR): Your surgeon removes your valve and replaces it with a new one.
- Aortic valve repair: Your surgeon repairs the existing valve to prevent blood leakage. This method is not as common as a replacement, but your surgeon may determine that this is a better approach, based on your individual needs.
Your surgeon will also consider your medical history, age, and anatomy when deciding which of these surgeries will be the best fit for you.
What to expect after aortic valve surgery
After surgery, you will recover in the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) for up to a week. There you will have your vitals monitored and begin cardiac rehab if it is part of your care plan.
Overall recovery takes anywhere between four to eight weeks. Your provider will provide you with instructions for your recovery, including when it is okay to return to your normal activities.
If you experience any signs of complications such as chest pain, fever, swelling, drainage, or redness around the incision site, pain in other parts of your body, or heart palpitations, contact your provider immediately.
Who can benefit from aortic valve surgery?
If you have aortic valve disease and need help to reduce symptoms or reduce the risk of complications, your provider may recommend you for aortic valve surgery. Types of aortic disease that may require surgery include:
- Aortic valve stenosis (a narrowing of the valve opening)
- Aortic valve regurgitation (leaky valve)
- Congenital (present at birth) aortic problems or defects
Other factors your provider will consider before recommending aortic valve surgery include the severity of your aortic valve disease, your age, your overall health, and whether your condition can be treated by alternatives such as medication.