Heart, arteries, lungs & veins frame the cardiovascular system of the human body. Heart has the most significant function in human body which is regulation of blood throughout the body. Major threat to human life are heart diseases. Number of deaths due to heart valve diseases is on the rise. Valvular diseases are the most common reason for heart attacks & severe strokes among 45 percent males & 55 percent females across the world. Valvular heart disease is a type of heart disease which mainly occurs when one or more of the four heart’s valves fail to work properly. Heart valves are responsible for conceding nutrient-rich blood supply through the chambers of human heart. All of the four valves are supposed to close entirely after passage of blood. Diseased heart valves are not always able to complete the function properly & which they should. Narrowing of blood vessels is commonly known as stenosis & causes a less-than-normal quantity of blood to flow to heart. This condition causes the heart muscle to function harder. Sometimes, leaky valves can also pose trouble. Heart valve replacement surgery may be a good option if the valves of patient’s heart are too delicate, scarred, or otherwise damaged.
What is Heart Valve Replacement Surgery?
Heart valves allow the flow of blood through heart in different levels or stages. Pumping of blood is a continuous mechanism of closing & opening of heart valves. Heart valve replacement surgery is a surgical procedure by which cardiac surgeons eliminate a damaged heart valve & replace it with grafts or portions from body tissues or with artificial heart valves to improve normal functioning of heart.
Bad heart conditions & other disorders, rheumatic fever, age-related changes or infections can cause severe heart valve disease. These factors change the flexibility or shape of normal heart valves. Exact cause of congenital heart valve disease is however not known. Congenital heart valve disease can appear alone or with some other kinds of congenital heart defects. Certain conditions can distort & stretch heart valves. Some of these conditions include the following.
- Advanced High Blood Pressure & Heart Failure – This can enlarge the arteries or heart.
- Atherosclerosis in Aorta – Aorta is the major artery that carries blood to the body. A waxy substance known as plaque builds up inside the arteries in atherosclerosis conditions.
- Damage & Scar Tissue – Damaged tissue due to a heart attack condition or any injury to the heart can also cause heart valve disease.
- Rheumatic Fever – Untreated strep infections that progress to rheumatic fever can result in heart valve disease.
- Infective Endocarditis – Germs that enter into bloodstream & get carried to the heart can also infect the innermost surface of heart as well as heart valves. This condition is termed as infective endocarditis which causes heart valve disease.
Common signs & symptoms of valvular heart disease can include the following.
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Swelling in ankles, legs, veins in the neck or abdomen
- Retention of fluid especially in the lower limbs
- Fluttering or irregular heartbeat
In some patients, damage is far advanced & total heart valve replacement of the affected valve is the only suitable option.
Biologic & mechanical valves are majorly used to replace faulty valves.
- Mechanical Valves – These are basically artificial components that have the same function as a natural heart valve.Usually, they are created from polyester &carbon materials that human body can tolerate well.They can easily last upto 10-20 years.One of the risks associated with using a mechanical valve is clotting of blood.Patients will need to take blood thinners for rest of their life to minimize the risk of stroke.
- Biologic Valves – Biologic valves, also known as bioprosthetic valves, are made from animal or human tissue. There are following three types of bioprosthetic heart valves.
- Porcine Valve – It is made from a pig tissue. It can be inserted with or without a frame referred to as a stent.
- Homograft – Homograft or allograft is made of tissue taken from a donor’s heart.
- Bovine Valve – It is made from cow tissue. It joins to heart of patients with silicone rubber.
Biologic valves do not enhance risk of developing blood clots. This indicates that patients most likely will not need to commit to a lifetime of anti-clotting medicines. Biologic valves, however, do not last as long as mechanical valves & may need to undergo replacement in future.
Cardiac surgeons will recommend the type of heart valve to patients based on the following factors.
- Age of the patients
- Patient’s overall health
- Patient’s ability to take anticoagulant medications
- Extent of heart valve disease
There are fundamentally four types of heart valve replacement surgeries as elaborated below.
- Aortic Valve Replacement – An aortic valve is on the leftmost side of the human heart & works as an outflow valve. The function of an aortic valve is to support the blood while leaving left ventricle & which is the heart’s major pumping chamber. Patients may need heart surgery on the aortic valve if they have a congenital defect or disease that causes regurgitation condition. Aortic valve has three partitions of tissue called as leaflets & it is therefore known as a tricuspid valve. Damaged valves have merely two leaflets & are therefore referred to as a bicuspid valve. Latest studies state that aortic valve replacement surgery has a 95 percent 5 years survival rate chance. Its survival rates depend upon following factors.
- Patient’s age
- Medical conditions of patients
- Function of heart
- Mitral Valve Replacement – Mitral valve is situated on the leftmost side of the heart. It works as an inflow valve which allows blood from the left atrium to flow through to the left ventricle. Valve replacement surgery may be needed if this valve does not completely open or fully close. When valve is extremely narrow, it can make it tough for blood to enter causing pressure in the lungs. This defective valve will be substituted with either a biological valve or a metal artificial valve. It can last a lifetime but needs patients to take blood thinners as well. Moreover, biological valves last between 12 – 20 years of time.
- Double Valve Replacement – This surgery involves replacement of both aortic as well as mitral heart valves. This surgery is risky & mortality rate is slightly higher in this kind of surgical intervention.
- Pulmonary Valve Replacement – In this surgery, surgeons separate the pulmonary artery that carries blood of patients to the lungs for oxidation & the right ventricle. Its major function is to allow blood from the heart to lungs through pulmonary artery. Pulmonary valve replacement is mostly caused due to stenosis which restricts the flow of blood.
Cardiac surgeons may identify a heart murmur or other major signs of heart valve disease. For diagnosing heart valve disease, surgeons will ask about patient’s signs & symptoms. They may also perform a physical examination & judge patient’s condition.
- Physical Evaluation – Surgeons will listen to patient’s heartbeat with a stethoscope. They will want to find out whether they have a heart murmur that’s likely created by a heart valve problem.
- Echocardiography – Echo is a major test for diagnosing heart valve disease. But an electrocardiogram or chest x-ray is mostly used to detect various signs of bad valve conditions. If any of the major signs are present, an echo test is done to confirm diagnosis of heart valve disease.
- Stress Test – While stress testing, patients exercise to make their heart work hard & beat fast during heart tests & imaging. If patients cannot exercise due to several reasons, they may be given medications to raise their heart rate.This test can help doctors assess the severity of heart valve disease.
- Cardiac MRI – This test uses a powerful magnet & radio waves to make detailed images of patient’s heart. These images can confirm heart valve damage.
Patients should clear all doubts that they have regarding heart valve replacement surgery. It is natural for patients to be anxious before the surgical operation. Patients should, therefore, talk about all issues that may be causing them anxiety.
- Initial Medical Session – Patients will need to visit the hospital several days prior to heart valve replacement surgery for an initial medical consultation session. During this time, surgeons & the team members will educate the patient about the upcoming heart valve replacement surgery.
- Recovery Instructions – Cardiac surgeons will teach patients how to prepare for heart valve replacement surgery by explaining what the method will be like & provide requisite instructions for a successful & healthy recovery.
- Informed Consent – One of the important aspects that surgeons will discuss with patients during this session is informed consent. They will clearly describe major risks associated with heart valve replacement surgery. Patients will then be asked to sign a consent form if they want to proceed with the operation.
Following is a list of significant questions to consider asking cardiac surgeons before heart valve replacement surgery. Most cardiac surgeons will be honest & up front in answering these crucial questions.
- What symptoms make heart valve replacement surgery advisable for me?
- What will likely happen if I abort heart valve replacement surgery?
- What is the average mortality rate at your hospital?
- Are there any severe complications that I may face after completion of this procedure?
- Who will perform my heart valve replacement surgery & where will they perform this?
- How long does this type of surgery normally take?
- What kind of follow-up is expected from me after completion of this procedure?
- Can you tell me the average length of time of my hospital stay?
- How will this surgery improve my health or quality of my life?
- Are there any limitations in lifestyle post heart valve replacement surgery?
- Can I do weight lifting or sports of any kind?
There is nearly 4 percent risk of death associated with heart valve replacement surgery. This surgery is carried out in following steps.
- General Anesthesia – Heart valve replacement surgery is usually performed under the influence of general anesthesia with methods which are either traditional or minimally invasive.
- Incisions – Traditional heart valve replacement surgery needs a long incision from the neck to the patient’s navel area. If patients have less invasive surgery, length of incisions can be slightly shorter & which can also reduce risk of infection.
- Bypass Machine – For a cardiac surgeon to successfully remove the damaged & diseased valve & substitute it with a new one, the heart must remain in a still condition for operation. Therefore, the patient will be placed on a bypass device that keeps blood circulating throughout the body & help by performing the function of lungs during heart valve replacement surgery.
- Completion – Cardiac surgeons will make incisions into the patient’s aorta, through which internally damaged valves will be eliminated & replaced.
Majority of patients who have undergone heart valve replacement surgery remain in hospital for nearly four to six days. If the surgical technique was minimally invasive, they might be able to get home earlier. Cardiac surgeons & the medical staff will offer certain pain medications as required & precisely monitor patient’s blood pressure, breathing pattern & heart function during initial few days after heart valve replacement surgery. Complete recovery may take up to several weeks or even months, depending upon patient’s rate of healing & the type of surgery that was performed by the surgeon. Infection is the basic & most common risk directly following heart valve replacement surgery, therefore keeping the incisions sterile is of utmost significance. Follow-up sessions post-surgery are extremely important & will help surgeons decide when the patient is ready to resume routine activities. Patient’s attitude & will power however contribute to a speedy recovery.
Heart valve replacement surgery is a big operation & like any kind of surgery, it carries a risk of post-surgical complications. Some of the major risks of heart valve replacement include the following.
- Blood clots
- Wound, bladder, lung or heart valve infections
- Irregular heartbeat which is temporary
- Reduced kidney function
Risk of death from heart valve replacement surgery is around 2 – 5 percent, although this risk is much lesser than that of leaving serious heart valve problems untreated. Most patients who survive a heart valve replacement surgery have life-expectancy near to normal.
Heart valve replacement surgery offers exceptional results & gives satisfying results to most of the patients. Patients who undergo this procedure can smoothly return to normal schedule following operation. Quality of life also enhances because they no longer have trouble breathing, palpitations or fainting spells. Rate of success of heart valve surgery is very high. This surgery can relieve patient’s symptoms & prolong life. Patients must, however, follow guidelines of operating surgeons in order to enjoy good health after heart valve replacement surgery.
Medical Tourism in India for Heart Valve Replacement Surgery
India has become a medical hub for international patients by offering them the latest in healthcare treatment provisions & best services in order to make their healthcare trip easy & comfortable. Indian cardiac surgeons & multi-speciality hospitals provide more pleasant, efficient & effective healthcare solutions for patients suffering from serious heart valve diseases. Indian hospitals are proving to be beneficial for serious patients with heart valve diseases as the cost of heart valve replacement surgery in India is extremely affordable without compromising on the quality of treatment.
Affordable Heart Valve Replacement with Travcure Medical Tourism
Travcure Medical Tourism is a leading medical value provider for cardiac surgeries in India. Heart Valve Replacement Surgery in India is now within reach of international patients who are willing to travel beyond their homeland for undergoing medical procedures. Travcure is associated with a wide network of medical facilities & best-accredited hospitals so as to provide heart valve repair & replacement procedures under highly skilled cardiac surgeons. Compassionate healthcare professionals at Travcure maintain highest ethics in providing a wide spectrum of medical treatments followed with transparency. Travcure also takes care of additional provisions like planning a vacation in India for rejuvenation following surgery through recovery.
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