Aortic Valve Replacement (AVR)
Aortic valve replacement surgery is an effective, life-saving treatment option for people with severe AS. Depending on your risk factors, such as health, diagnosis, and age, your health care providers will be able to recommend the appropriate valve replacement for you.
A traditional aortic valve replacement surgery often requires a median sternotomy, where the sternum is split down the middle (some are performed without splitting the sternum). The chest is then opened with special retractors. This provides the surgeon with necessary access to the heart and chest cavity, in order to replace your aortic valve. Because each patient has his or her unique medical history, this information cannot replace discussions with your doctor.
During the Procedure
The operation varies from patient to patient, lasting a minimum of two hours and often longer. During this time, you are asleep under general anesthesia. During the operation, the surgeon will remove any tissue and calcium deposits that are interfering with the normal function of the valve. Your damaged valve may be completely removed.
Then, the new valve will be sewn into the space where your own valve used to be. After the surgeon makes sure your valve is working properly, blood flow will be restored to your heart and the incisions will be closed. Your surgery is performed while the function of your heart is taken over by a heart-lung machine (called CPB, for cardiopulmonary bypass).
After the Surgery
Immediately after the operation, you’ll probably be drowsy. You will spend the next few hours, or possibly the night, in the intensive care unit. When intensive care monitoring is no longer needed, you will be moved to a step-down unit and eventually to a routine-care hospital floor. A typical hospital stay is 5-10 days. After you’re released from the hospital, you will need to see your doctor periodically for follow-up visits.
Summary of Open-Heart Surgical Aortic Valve Replacement
- General anesthesia
- Patient on heart-lung bypass machine
- Chest open, 7-inch incision (often, but alternatives exist)
- Valve replaced during 2-4 hour procedure (typical)
- 5-10 day hospital stay (typical)
- Approximately 6-8 week recovery period