Overview of Surgical Aortic Valve Replacement

Aortic valve replacement is a treatment for aortic valve stenosis. Many patients require heart surgery to repair or replace the aortic valve, though less invasive options may be suitable for certain patients (see aortic valve repair/replacement – transcatheter).

During valve replacement surgery, the damaged valve is removed by a cardiothoracic surgeon. A prosthetic valve is inserted and secured in place with small stitches. Valve replacement is best performed before the heart becomes permanently damaged from the strain of the diseased valve. Less invasive surgeries with smaller incisions such as minithoracotomy for aortic or mitral valve replacement are suitable for certain patients. Cardiothoracic surgeons at Intermountain Medical Center are the leaders in research for improved prosthetic valves as well as investigative trials for less invasive valve replacement.

Mechanical Valves: Mechanical valves – typically made of plastic, metal, or cloth — are usually quite durable. However, they require the life-long use of anticoagulants (blood thinners) to prevent blood clots.
Tissue Valves: Tissue valves come from human donors or from animals (usually pigs), and don't usually require the lifelong use of anticoagulant medication. For this reason, tissue valves are often a good option for women who want to have children, and for athletes in sports with a high risk of injury. However, tissue valves don't tend to last as long as mechanical valves, and may need to be replaced in your lifetime.

© 2018 Intermountain Healthcare. All rights reserved. The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.