Heart Valve Replacement Surgery Overview
Heart valve replacement surgery is a surgical procedure that replaces heart valves that have narrowed and obstructed blood flow into or out of the heart due to a multitude of factors. This type of surgery also helps to replace leaky or malfunctioning valves within the heart muscle. Four major valves are found in the heart (mitral, aortic, tricuspid, pulmonary) and all must be functioning properly in order to maintain adequate as well as direction of blood flow. The most commonly replaced valves in the heart are the mitral and aortic valves.
Who Is a Candidate for Heart Valve Replacement Surgery?
Heart valve replacement surgeries are often indicated for those suffering from congenital heart valve diseases as well as those suffering from heart conditions such as rheumatic valve disease, coronary artery disease, heart attack damage, as well as cardiomyopathy, or heart muscle disease.
Types of Heart Valve Replacement Procedures
Open-heart valve replacement surgery requires that the heart be exposed in an operating room. The heart is stopped so that the surgeon may replace valves or repair them. Opening the chest requires that the sternum, or breastbone, be cut and spread, exposing the heart muscle. During this type of surgery, patients are placed on a heart-lung machine, which serves as a cardiopulmonary bypass method that allows blood to pump through the heart through mechanical means while the heart is being operated upon.
However, advancements in surgical procedures and techniques have developed minimally invasive valve surgical techniques that don't always necessitate open-heart surgery. Instead, smaller incisions are made to replace or repair heart valves. Surgery of this type is performed through smaller incisions made on the side of the chest rather than through the sternum. However, such advanced techniques do require special equipment, training and expertise, and the number of hospitals that offer this type of surgery are fewer in number than those who offer traditional open-heart surgeries. In most cases, minimally invasive surgeries focus on:
Valvuloplasty is a technique that is used to treat stiff valves within the heart muscle. This procedure is performed in an operating room on a patient who is given local anesthesia. A catheter equipped with a small, deflated balloon at its tip is inserted into a major blood vessel in the groin and then guided toward the heart and then to the narrowed heart valve opening. There, the balloon is inflated and the valve is opened. This procedure generally takes about four hours. Success rates with this technique are typically 80 to 90%, with fewer postoperative complications than other procedures.
Benefits of Heart Valve Replacement Surgery
Heart valve replacement surgery may be indicated for patients experiencing cardiac conditions that have damaged or weakened valves found within the heart. Damaged valves may cause a multitude of symptoms including breathing difficulties, edema, chest pain, and heart palpitations. Ideal candidates are determined by overall health, age, and physical condition, which your physician will assess. Individuals considering heart valve replacement surgery should be aware of possible risks such as blood clots, pneumonia, and abnormal heart rhythms.
Cost of Heart Valve Replacement Surgical Procedures
Any type of cardiac surgery is expensive in the United States. In general, heart valve replacement or repair in the United States costs an average of $25,000 per valve. Mitral valve replacement may cost around $14,000 to $20,000, depending on hospital or surgical center location. Many patients undergoing multiple valve replacement surgical procedures may expect to pay up to $100,000 for such services.
Medical travelers to India, however, enjoy the same quality of service at greater savings, with single valve replacements generally costing around $9,500 and double valve replacements costing around $11,500.
Who Performs the Surgery?
Cardiac surgeons experienced in high-risk surgical procedures and heart surgeries perform heart valve replacement surgeries. Cardiac surgeons should be trained, certified, and members in certified and accredited hospitals, surgical centers, organizations and associations in their state or country of origin.