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Valve Replacement Surgery

The human heart has four valves: the aortic valve, the pulmonary valve, the mitral valve, and the tricuspid valve. These valves open to allow blood to flow through the heart and close to prevent the blood from flowing backward. If a valve becomes narrowed (stenosis) or fails to close tightly and allows blood to leak back into the heart (regurgitation), your doctor may indicate that a procedure to repair or replace the valve is necessary.

The symptoms of heart valve disease include pain or discomfort in the chest, weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations. If heart valve disease is suspected, your doctor will listen to the heart for the telltale signs of a malfunctioning valve. He may also order additional tests such as an echocardiogram (ultrasound) or an angiogram (x-ray).

During surgery, the affected valve is repaired using a ring to support the damaged valve, or it is removed and replaced with an artificial valve. The goal of both procedures is to allow the blood to flow freely and also form a tight seal when closed so blood cannot flow backward into the heart.

Valve Endocarditis

Valve endocarditis is a bacterial infection that enters through the bloodstream travels to the heart valves. This disease is problematic because cardiac valves do not have their own direct blood supply, so the body’s natural defenses cannot reach the valves. This makes fighting the infection with the immune system or even medications difficult. The symptoms of valve endocarditis include night sweats, fever, and swelling of the legs and/or feet.

Diagnosis typically consists of an exam, blood tests, and imaging tests such as an echocardiogram (ultrasound) or an EKG. Treatment usually begins with antibiotics, but if they prove to be ineffective, surgery is needed to repair or replace the diseased valve.