Heart Valve Repair Surgery

Valvular diseases are no longer said to affect people as they age. This is a disease which affects patients in prime years of their lives with deaths happening both in women & in men. Recent studies have proved that the incidence of heart valve disease is said to have increased with growth & age. Current statistics shows that one in ten people above the age of 55 years are said to suffer from valve disease. Root cause of heart valve disease involves degenerations or congenital malformations, calcification of leaflets, endocarditis & so on, which disturb the left side valves of the heart. Heart valve repair surgery is referred to as a gold standard for heart diseases as incidence of heart valve disease is on the rise. Medical surgeons of repute have estimated that the number of heart valve repair surgeries will triple over a couple of decades.

What is Heart Valve Repair Surgery?

Heart valve surgery is a procedure which treats narrowed or leaking heart valves (heart valve disease) by repairing one or more of heart valves with the aim of curing or improving patient’s symptoms. Heart valve repair surgery also prevents permanent damage to patient’s heart, which could increase their life expectancy as well. During heart valve repair, a ring may be sewn near the opening of heart valve to precisely tighten it. Other portions of the valve may be shortened, separated, cut or made stronger to help the valve close & open right.

Main Causes of Heart Valve Disease

Heart valve disease can adversely affect the normal flow of blood through the heart. This can affect patient’s overall health & keep them from enjoying activities they want to perform. There are various causes for different heart valve disorders including the following.

  • Congenital Birth Defects – Serious congenital heart defects by birth can be a major cause.
  • Infective Endocarditis – This condition can be defined as inflammation of the heart tissue which may eventually lead to heart valve disease.
  • Rheumatic Fever – This is an inflammatory disease which is caused by an infection with group A Streptococcus bacteria.
  • Age-Related Changes – These may include changes such as calcium deposits which also result in heart disease.
  • Heart Attack – This is one of the most common causes of heart valve diseases.
  • Coronary Artery Disease – includes the condition of hardening & narrowing of arteries that supply blood to the heart.
  • Syphilis – It is a rare sexually transmitted infection.
  • Cardiomyopathy – This condition involves degenerative changes in heart muscle.
  • Hypertension – Hypertension or high blood pressure could also be responsible for heart valve disease.
  • Aortic Aneurysm – This is an irregular bulging or swelling of a spot in the aorta.
  • Atherosclerosis – This is a condition of hardening of arteries.
  • Myxomatous Degeneration – Weakening of connective tissue in mitral valve leads to heart valve diseases.
  • Lupus – It is a chronic autoimmune disorder resulting in heart diseases.

Signs & Symptoms of Heart Valve Disease

There are many symptoms that may indicate heart valve disease. Some of them are described as follows.

  • Shortness of Breath – Difficulty in catching breath specifically after patients have been physically active or when they rest or lie down flat in bed.
  • Dizziness – When patients feel dizzy or extremely weak to perform daily normal activities.
  • Pressure in Chest – When patients experience weight or pressure in chest, especially when they are active or when they go out into cold weather.
  • Palpitations – When patients experience heart palpitations or a feeling that heart is skipping beats, beating irregularly or flip-flopping in chest.
  • Swelling – When patients observe swelling in their ankles, belly or feet.
  • Sudden Weight Gain – Weight gain with possibly as much as 3-4 pounds in a day.

Symptoms of heart valve disease can range from moderate to none at all & do not necessarily indicate the seriousness of heart valve disease.

Types of Heart Valve Repair Procedures

Heart valve repair can generally be done on congenital valve defects & has a satisfactory success record with treating mitral valve defects efficiently. When patients want to undergo heart valve repair surgery, the damaged valve can be repaired by any of the following types of valve repair procedures.

  • Commissurotomy – This procedure is used for hardened & narrowed heart valves, where the leaflets are stuck together or thickened. Cardiac surgeons cut the points where leaflets meet &open the valve.
  • Valvuloplasty – This procedure strengthens the leaflets to provide reliable support & to let the valve close tightly. Surgeons attach a ring-like device outside the valve opening to provide support.
  • Reshaping – This procedure is done when the cardiac surgeon cuts out a portion of a leaflet. When the leaflet is stitched back together, the valve can close easily.
  • Decalcification – This procedure removes excessive calcium buildup from the leaflets. When the calcium deposit is eliminated, leaflets are able to close properly.
  • Structural Support – Repair of structural support shortens the cords that give heart valves support. These cords are known as the chordae tendineae & the papillary muscles. Once the cords are of appropriate length, the valve can close properly.
  • Patching – It covers tears or holes in the leaflets with a tissue patch.

Diagnosing Serious Heart Valve Disease

When patients are experiencing severe symptoms of heart valve disorder, the cardiac surgeon will begin by listening to their heart with a stethoscope. Cardiac surgeons will listen for any heart rate irregularities that might signify trouble with patient’s heart valves. Cardiac surgeons may also check lungs of patients to decide if there’s fluid buildup & check their body for signs of water retention. These may be signs of heart valve problems. Other significant tests that may be used to diagnose heart valve diseases include the following.

  • ECG – An electrocardiogram or ECG is a most common test that clearly shows electrical activity of the patient’s heart. It precisely indicates abnormal heart rhythms if present. This test basically uses sound waves to form a picture of heart valves & its chambers.
  • Cardiac Catheterization – This is an effective test which diagnoses heart valve disorders. It uses a narrow & thin tube or catheter with a tiny camera to take pictures of the patient’s heart. This can help the surgeon to determine severity & type of heart valve disease.
  • Stress Test – This test can be utilized to decide how patient’s symptoms are affected by physical exertion. Important information from stress test can help the cardiac surgeon in determining the patient’s heart condition.
  • Chest X-Ray – Cardiac surgeons can order this test for taking pictures of the patient’s heart. This helps to show whether the heart is enlarged.
  • MRI Scan – MRI test may provide a more detailed photograph of internal structures of the patient’s heart.

As per results of the above tests cardiac surgeons will decide as to how best to treat the heart valve disorder.

Preparing for Heart Valve Repair Surgery

Respective cardiac surgeons of patients’ heart problem will explain to them as to how to prepare for heart valve repair surgery.

  • Smoking – When patients wanting to undergo heart valve repair surgery smoke, they will be strongly advised to quit this habit as soon as possible. This is because smoking enhances risk of getting wound or chest infections, which will result in a longer period of recovery after the operation.
  • Alcohol – Patients should limit alcohol intake prior to several weeks of surgery in order to avoid complications.
  • Food Intake – Patients will usually have heart valve repair surgery performed under the influence of general anesthesia, which means they will be asleep during the operation. This can make patients get sick, so it’s necessary that patients do not drink or eat anything for eight hours before their operation. Patients should follow the anesthetist or surgeon’s advice.
  • Compression Stockings – Patients may require wearing compression stockings to regulate flow of blood. They may also require having an injection of medicine called heparin to help prevent blood clotting conditions in veins of the patient’s legs.
  • Pre-Surgery Counselling – Surgeons will talk to patients in detail about what will happen before, during & after completion of procedure. They will also give an idea of any related pain patients might experience at any stage.

Questions to Ask Cardiac Surgeons about Heart Valve Repair Surgery

Patients should ask any number of questions they have to surgeons to really understand what will happen. It will be helpful to prepare a list of questions in advance, for example about the benefits, risks & any alternatives to heart valve repair surgery. Below is a list of some relevant queries.

  • What is the cause of my heart valve disease?
  • Why do I need heart valve repair surgery?
  • How many heart valve repair surgeries do you do every year?
  • What will happen if I do not wish to undergo this surgery?
  • How long does heart valve repair surgery take?
  • Are there any severe complications with heart valve repair surgery?
  • What will my recovery be like?
  • Do I need to take any medications following heart valve repair surgery?
  • When can I resume normal activity after this surgery?
  • How soon after my heart valve repair surgery can I expect to see outcomes?

It is extremely important for patients to be fully informed as they will be asked to sign a consent form.

Heart Valve Repair Surgery Procedure

Cardiac surgeons need to open the chest of patients to get access to heart & the damaged valve during heart valve repair surgery. This surgery is performed in the following steps as elaborated below.

  • Anesthesia – Patients will be asleep during the operation & they will not experience any pain.
  • Functioning of Heart – In a majority of heart surgeries, heart of patients will be temporarily stopped & they will be connected to a heart-lung machine that takes over blood circulation & breathing. Alternatively, there are methods that may be executed on a beating heart as well. Cardiac surgeons will decide which kind of procedure is best suitable for every patient’s particular needs.
  • Minimally Invasive Methods – Techniques that let surgeons get to the affected valve through a tiny incision in sternum or under the right pectoral muscle in chest are known as minimally invasive methods. With latest advances in technologies & procedural techniques, more cardiac surgeons are utilizing minimally invasive procedures to repair damaged heart valves. These procedures are responsible for minimizing pain, scarring & recovery period.
  • Repairing – Cardiac surgeons may execute one or several of the following procedures as they repair damaged heart valve of patients.
  • Resizing affected heart valve by eliminating additional tissue.
  • Removing calcium deposits that may have built up near the heart valve leaflets.
  • Repairing cords that regulate the motion of valve leaflets.
  • Reattaching the valve to its cords.
  • Adding support to valve’s base (annulus) by including tissue or by stitching an annulus ring or band around the outside of the valve.

Recovery Following Heart Valve Repair Surgery

After completion of heart valve surgery, patients will be monitored in an intensive care unit of the hospital. When patients wake up, they will be connected to devices that record their heart rate, activity of lungs & take measurements of other body systems. A ventilator machine may be provided to help the patient breathe. Patients will also be given pain relief medications so as to help with any discomfort as anesthetic wears off. Patients may have a catheter to drain urine from the bladder into a bag. Surgeons will encourage patients to get out of bed & start moving around as soon as possible. This will ensure prevention against chest infections & clotting of blood in patient’s legs. Physiotherapists may visit often after surgery to aid faster recovery. Nearly after ten days, patients will be able to go home. Medical staff will give proper advice to patients about caring for the healing wounds before they go home. Patients will be given a date for follow-up appointment. Full recovery from heart valve repair surgery can take up to three months of time. Strictly following guidelines of cardiac surgeons is the key to successful recovery following heart valve repair surgery.

Risks & Complications of Heart Valve Repair Surgery

After heart valve repair surgery, it is normal for patients to feel some pain & discomfort from the chest wound. Patients are likely to have permanent scars on the chest. However, these scars will fade over time. Possible complications of heart valve repair surgery can include the following.

  • Infection – Wound of patients may become red, swollen & tender to touch. They may need antibiotics to treat such severe infection.
  • Blood Clot – If there is a formation of blood clot, it could block the valve. Blood-thinning medications are therefore given to prevent this condition.
  • Cardiac Tamponade – This is a serious condition where fluid gathers in the sac near patient’s heart & affects its pumping action.
  • Aortic Dissection – A tear may be formed in patient’s aorta & if this happens, patients will require immediate medical treatment.
  • Heart Attack or Stroke – This condition may also sometimes occur.
  • Abnormal Heartbeat – Patients may develop an irregular heart rhythm after heart valve repair surgery. This can generally be treated with proper medications.

Heart Valve Repair Surgery Outcomes

After heart valve repair surgery, patient’s life & heart function will largely return to normal. If patients had serious symptoms before heart valve repair surgery, they should feel better after surgery. For example, patients should no longer have fatigue & shortness of breath. Patients should be sure to see their surgeons regularly. Main advantages of heart valve repair surgery are discussed as below.

  • Improved lifestyle
  • Better rate of survival
  • Better preservation of heart function
  • Lower risk of stroke & infection

Medical Tourism in India for Effective Heart Valve Repair Surgery

India is a popular medical tourism destination for international patients to undergo affordable heart valve repair surgeries. India offers outstanding healthcare & heart valve repair surgeries at approximately 20 to 30 percent of the cost of similar procedures in healthcare facilities in the UK & United States. It is impossible to discover any such high-quality treatments which are cost-effective to this extent elsewhere in the world. Cardiac surgeons in India are globally renowned for their expertise & skills in repairing damaged heart valves.

Affordable Heart Valve Repair Surgery with Travcure Medical Tourism

Travcure Medical Tourism is a globally reputed healthcare facilitator based in India. Healthcare experts at Travcure are humble & compassionate & are therefore able to treat everyone with utmost care. Heart surgeons associated with Travcure are among the best heart specialists in the country & have provided some of the most successful heart valve repair surgery outcomes in the past. Offering pleasant & hassle-free medical packages for international patients, Travcure healthcare consultants will work out every minute detail for overseas patients throughout their medical journey in India.

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