Heart valve replacement surgery is to replace the defective valve of the heart with an artificial one. Defective valves can’t operate naturally and hinder the inward and outward flow of blood. The surgery is done after applying the general anesthesia and takes about 4-5 hrs. Generally, open heart surgery is performed to replace the valve when the patient is given support of the heart-lung machine. Beating heart surgery is also a process to replace the valve, but without any support of breathing.
Human heart comprises four different types of valves- aortic, mitral, tricuspid, and pulmonic. Aortic valves are mostly replaced as they can’t be repaired. In most of the cases, mitral valves are repaired. Replacing or repairing other two types of valves are very rare.
Valve replacement surgery is needed when 1. Regurgitation- when the valve doesn’t close fully, so the blood leaks and goes backwards. 2. Stenosis- when the valve doesn’t open fully restricting the flow of the blood. Apart from these two other symptoms may lead to the valve replacement surgery e.g., if the patient feeling severe chest pain, shortness of breathing, fainting, infection has damaged the heart valves badly, the previously replaced valve isn’t working properly. There are three types of valves that are used in the replacement procedure. 1. Mechanical valve- this is a prosthetic artificial valve. 2. Tissue Valve- this is taken from the animal and before replacement it is treated chemically. 3. Homografts – this is taken from a human donor. This type of replacement is necessary for children and pregnant women.
In the open heart surgery, the surgeon opens up the heart and then replaces or repairs the damaged valves. During that time the patient is supported by the heart-lung machine that runs the mechanism smoothly and the heart is stopped temporarily. Another method is gaining popularity these days is called minimally invasive technique. Modern advanced techniques and instruments have helped surgeons to minimise the scarring, pain or the recovery time. It is the sole authority of the surgeon what procedure he opts for.
The valve replacement surgery is very complicated and time taking as well. The patient has to be mentally strong before this operation. Patient and the family members are given enough knowledge about this process. During this operation, the patient is given general anesthesia and the surgeon makes a big cut under the breastbone to get access to heart and aorta. The heart is stopped temporarily to replace the valve. During that time the patient is in artificial support called heart-lung bypass machine. After successful repair or replacement, the heart is restarted. In the minimally invasive process a smaller insertion is made or catheter is inserted below the skin. After the surgery, the patient has to stay in the hospital for 5-7 days. Depending on the procedure of the surgery it can take between a few weeks to even months to recover fully.
Heart valve replacement surgery in India is very sophisticated and can be compared with the other medically advanced countries like US, UK, Canada, Australia etc. The surgeons are trained from the very best colleges from all over the world, hospitals are fully equipped with ultramodern facilities. The cost for the surgery is very less when compared to the other advanced countries but the success rate is very commanding. Now India is becoming a destination for medical tourism.