Two are located between the atria and the ventricles. These are called the Tricuspid valve and the Mitral valve. Two valves lie between the ventricles and the major arteries arising from them. These are called the Pulmonic and Aortic valves.
Normal heart valves are made of thin pieces of tissue called leaflets. The valve's leaflets are attached and supported by a ring of tough fibrous tissue known as annulus. The annulus helps to maintain the proper shape of the valve. We can compare valve leaflets to opening and closing of doors, while the annulus functions with the door frame.
The mitral valve is the most common valve to be repaired. The aortic valve is the most common valve to be replaced because it cannot be repaired. The tricuspid valve or the pulmonic valve are rarely repaired or replaced. During repair, the surgeon does trimming, and shapes, or rebuilds one or more of the leaflets of the valve. While during replacement, the surgeon, removes diseased valve and puts a new one in place.
Let's take a look at how our heart valves work
Valve disease occurs when the heart's valves do not work correctly either due to valvular stenosis or valvular insufficiency.
Valvular stenosis is a narrowing of the valve opening that is caused by stiff, inflexible or used leaflets. This limits the forward flow of blood as it is forced through an opening that is smaller than normal. For example, the normal valve opening is about the size of a ring for thumb or larger. In contrast, valve leaflets that are stenotic and causing problems may reduce the opening to the size of a ring for little finger or even smaller.
Valvular insufficiency, also called regurgitation, incompetence, or "leaky valve", occurs when valves do not close tightly. If the valves are not sealed, some of the blood will leak backward across the insufficient valve. This lessens the forward flow of the blood. As a result, the heart muscle is required to work harder to circulate the right amount of blood through the body. Sometime people are born with valvular stenosis and insufficiency (congenital) or acquire them.
Acquired defects are problems that develop with valves that were once normal. They may be caused by rheumatics' heart disease, infection or other changes in the structure of heart valve.
Valve disease can occur in one or more of the four heart valves. Before surgery, the cardiologist performs a careful medical exam and diagnostic tests to help identify the location, type and extent of valve disease. Then, during surgery, the surgeon either repairs or replaces the diseased valve or valves.
If a valve is repaired, the surgeon may:
If the surgeon decides to replace heart valve, the old valve is removed and a new valve is sewn to the annulus of the old valve. The new valve can be either mechanical or biological. Mechanical valves are made up of totally of mechanical parts. They include the ball and cage, tilting disc, or bileaflet valves.
(also called tissue or bioprosthetic valves) - are made of tissues. But, they may have some artificial parts to give the valve support and help sew it in place. They can be made from pig tissue (porcine), cow tissue (bovine) or human tissue (homograft).
Aortic valve surgery is performed by cardiac surgeons to treat most commonly aortic valve stenosis and aortic valve regurgitation.
During the surgery, aortic valve shall be repaired or replaced. The results of patient's diagnostic investigations, the structure of heart, age, and also the presence of other medical conditions and other factors are considered to decide whether aortic valve repair or replacement is the most suitable treatment approach for patient.
Aortic valve surgery can be performed using either traditional heart valve surgery or minimally invasive technique, depending upon patient's condition.
During traditional aortic valve surgery, the cardiac surgeon makes a 6- to 8-inch incision down the center of patient's sternum, and part or all of the sternum (breastbone) is divided to provide direct access to the heart. The surgeon then repairs or replaces the diseased heart valve or valves.
This is a type of aortic valve repair surgery that is performed through smaller, 2- to 4-inch incisions without opening patient's whole chest. This is usually done with a "J" incision and reduces blood loss, pain, length of hospital stay and also speeds up recovery.
On the basis of the results of diagnostic investigations, the treating doctor determines if the patient is a suitable candidate for this type of surgery.
Mitral Valve Surgery is a surgery that is performed by cardiothoracic surgeons to treat stenosis (narrowing) or regurgitation (leakage) of the mitral valve. The mitral valve is the "inflow valve" for the left side of our heart and it has two flaps or leaflets. Earlier surgical intervention of the diseased mitral valve may prevent irreversible damage to the heart.
Mitral valve surgery can be performed using either traditional heart valve surgery or minimally invasive technique, depending upon patient's condition.
During the traditional surgical technique, here also the cardiac surgeon makes a 6- to 8-inch incision down the center of patient's sternum, and part or all of the sternum (breastbone) is divided to provide direct access to the heart. The cardiac surgeon then repairs or replaces the diseased mitral valve.
Whereas, Minimally invasive mitral valve surgery is done through 2-inch to 3-inch-long cut in the right part of chest near the sternum (breastbone). Muscles in the area get divided and this lets the surgeon reach the heart. A small cut is then made in the left side of heart so that the mitral valve can be repaired or replaced.
The surgery cal also be done through robotically-assisted technique. Here, the surgeon utilizes a special computer to control robotic arms at the time of surgery. A 3D view of the mitral valve and the heart at large are displayed on a computer screen in the operating room. This method is very accurate.
The tricuspid valve that is located on the right side of the heart makes sure blood flows the right way through the heart's chambers from the right atrium down to the right ventricle. The most common forms of tricuspid valve disease are: tricuspid stenosis; and tricuspid regurgitation.
TVR can also be done either through traditional surgical technique with 6 to 8 inches incision in the chest or through Minimally Invasive and Robotically assisted valve surgery technique.
The cardiac surgeon will evaluate patient's overall medical condition, heart's anatomy and function, and the severity and extent of valve disease to determine what technique of surgery would be suitable for the patient.
DVR is performed on patients who have both aortic and mitral valve, or aortic and tricuspid valve disease. The surgical correction of valvular stenosis or regurgitation typically comprises of the repair or replacement of all the affected valves .
Both traditional as well as minimally invasive approach are feasible for this type of valve abnormality correction. Decision regarding the same is taken by treating doctor, based on patient's medical condition, age and results of diagnostic investigations.
Healthy Diet and Nutrition
Apart from exercise, eating healthy shall speed up recovery and healing process. If patient's appetite is poor, try to give him/her smaller but more frequent meals. Depending on his/her condition, the doctor or dietician may put him/her on a special dietary plan. For example, patients with heart failure must follow a low-sodium diet. Diabetic patients are advised to follow a low-fat, low-sugar diet.