Normal heart valves are thin, smooth structures that direct blood flow through the heart's chambers. The valves can be changed or damaged by birth defects, heart attacks, coronary artery disease, infection, rheumatic heart disease or age. Over time, scarring or thickening of the heart valve can occur. With these changes, the valves become harder to open (stenosis) or can't close all the way (regurgitation).
When valves do not open and close as they should, less blood is pumped to the body. This creates a need for the heart to pump harder. If the heart has trouble keeping pace, heart failure occurs and blood is not emptied out of the heart as it should be. Eventually, the blood backs up into the lungs and other parts of the body. As a result, shortness of breath, leg swelling, coughing and/orr fatigue occurs.
While medicines can improve the heart's pumping and relieve heart failure in some cases, surgery is often needed to improve the heart's function. When possible, your own heart valve is repaired. More often the damaged heart valve must be replaced.
Some people feel better right after surgery because their symptoms are relieved. For most people, it takes a few months before they feel the benefits of the heart valve surgery. It takes time for the heart to recover from the extra work it was doing before the surgery.
The replacement valve will be either a mechanical valve or tissue valve. The tissue valve may be porcine (pig tissue), bovine (cow tissue), or human. Your surgeon will recommend the type of valve that's best for you. Some factors to consider include age, your disease, the size of your heart, and your ability and willingness to take blood thinner medicines. Your feelings and ideas will be discussed and considered in the planning of the operation.
Colorado Health Medical Group Cardiology and Cardiothoracic Surgery offers northern Colorado's most experienced physician team in this type of procedure. For more information, we offer helpful resources with links to more detailed heart surgery information.
Information about CHMG valve clinic, the first of its kind in northern Colorado.
To learn more, please contact CHMG Cardiology and Cardiothoracic Surgery at 970.221.1000.