Heart Valve Replacement

Heart valve replacement surgery is available for patients who have been suffering from symptoms that are not attributable to other heart issues. Once a medical history has been done and a number of medical tests that will pinpoint the exact cause of the issues have been conducted, if the problem has been deemed a cardiac valve problem, surgery can repair the malfunction. The symptoms that may have caused a person to seek medical attention initially would often be problems breathing when lying down, wheezing or coughing during exertion, waking up at night short of breath, tiredness, dizzy spells, swollen feet or ankles, pounding heart and chest pain. Cardiac valves can be damaged by a number of sources. Congenital issues can occur before birth while rheumatic fever produces a bacteria that produces protein antibodies that can damage cardiac valves. And of course, aging can cause valves to calcify or harden bringing on an onset of dysfunction. In some cases medication can help the valves begin functioning again properly and in other cases, cardiac surgery is required.

Cardiac valves are flap-like leafs that swing open to allow blood to pass and then close to insure that blood is flowing in only one direction. There are four different valves: aortic that separates the left ventricle from the aorta, the mitral, that separates the left ventricle from the left atrium, and the tricuspid separates the right atrium from the right ventricle and the pulmonary which separates the right ventricle from the pulmonary artery. The heart valve replacement physician will need to determine where the problem is and a number of tests will be conducted to determine which valve is damaged. A simple chest X-ray will help show heart abnormalities, while blood tests will uncover infections, anemia and other blood anomalies. An electrocardiogram will help to gauge the heart's rhythm and a Holter monitor will be worn by the patient for twenty four hours to continuously create an electrocardiogram record to determine any cardiac irregularities not caught by the ECG in the office. Additionally, a cardiac stress test on a treadmill may be ordered as well as a catherization of the cardio muscle. Heart valve replacement surgery requires extensive testing in order to decide just exactly which surgical procedures are needed.

In addition to the X-ray as a visual scan, the cardiologist may also order a CAT scan, which is a series of X-rays that form a detailed image. The typical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be employed to create a very detailed image of the heart as well as a PET scan. The positron emission tomography test has the patient injected with a small amount of radioactive substance which can be then tracked by a camera. This imaging procedure can give a very good idea of what is happening with the cardiac valves under suspicion of being damaged or not performing. It is important that the surgeon know whether or not the heart valve replacement surgery be a replacement or just a repair of the poorly functioning valve. In some cases, it may not be clear as to whether it will be replaced or repaired until the cardio muscle is opened for visual inspection.

When it is determined that the valve needs replaced, the surgeon has two choices: the replacement can either be mechanical or biological. Man-made mechanical valves are ones that may require a life time use of blood thinner that the patient may or may not be able to tolerate. The biological valves come from the hearts of pigs, cows or a human donor. These valves do not usually require long term use of blood thinners but do not have the long lasting track record of the mechanical valves. These decisions on kinds of valves to use will be made ahead of the surgery, with all decisions made with the approval of the patient. Issues such as the occupation of the patient, age and what kind of physical shape he or she is in may all be part of the decision as to what kind of cardiac valves are used in the heart valve replacement surgery.

While typically heart valve replacement surgery is done by splitting open the breast bone and exposing the cardiac muscle, a number of cutting edge medical centers are now doing the surgery using robotics and thorascopic approaches. These state of the art approaches allow surgeons to enter the patient from the side instead of breaking open the breast bone (sternum). One surgeon guides cameras and surgical tools into the patient while another surgeon views the cardiac muscle and makes the repair through specially designed monitors and hand guided surgery tools. The cardiac muscle must still be stopped and blood must be bypassed from the heart during the surgery. But this approach to heart valve replacement surgery certainly does drastically reduce the recuperative time for cardiac surgery from the traditional open chest procedure that has been practiced for decades.

Once the heart valve replacement surgery has taken place, the patient will go to intensive care for a day or two while the medical staff can monitor the patient's recovery closely. A breathing tube used during surgery will have to be removed, usually after waking from the anesthesia. A catheter will also be in place which can be removed once ambulatory ability is achieved. While the physical heart can cause all of us some problems during our lifetimes, the Bible declares the heart to be the center of all man's problems with God. "Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me." (Psalm 51:10)

Heart Valve Surgery

Heart valve surgery is an operation that replaces valve tissue by removing what is damaged and replacing it with a new valve made from plastic, metal, or bioprosthetic choices. The effects of the surgery will help the heart to function better thus improving overall health and the function of other vital organs as well. Robotic heart surgery decreases the risk associated with a complex operation because the use of technology makes it less invasive. The use of robotic arms limits the size of the incision to about six centimeters or less. This procedure also reduces the pain and recovery time compared to a conventional procedure. Timing is everything on having this procedure since the longer a person goes with tissue damage the more harm is done to the aorta.

Plastic and metal valves increase the risk of clotting but will probably never need to be replaced. Bioprosthetic ones are usually made from pig tissue and decrease the risk of clotting but do not last as long and may need to be replaced eventually. Heart valve surgery is an option for anyone who has cardiac failure. Some of the conditions that can lead to having the procedure are untreated high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart attack, valve deterioration, and problems with the cardiac muscle. Cardiac failure symptoms include shortness of breath, irregular or fast heartbeat, coughing up mucous, swelling of legs, fatigue, and dizziness.

The risks of developing cardiac disease include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and diabetes. Some pain relievers can increase risks; these include over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories and prescription drugs known as cox-2 inhibitors. Having rheumatic fever greatly increases a person's risk of needing robotic heart surgery. Rheumatic fever is caused from strep throat that has gone untreated. The condition can cause inflammation in the body that leads to valve damage. God's Word can serve as a reminder that His will for His children is to be healthy and prosperous. People who are worried about health related conditions should seek God for healing. "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." (3 John 1:2)

Stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and death are risks associated with heart valve surgery. Anesthesia can complicate the procedure if the patient reacts badly to the medication or has problems breathing. As with any type of surgical procedure there is a risk of bleeding and infection. The benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks because of the positive result on heart function and the relief from symptoms associated with valve damage. Intensive care may be needed for about three days after the operation and the hospital stay may be as long as two weeks. Total recovery time may take up to several months but that is dependent upon the patient's health before the operation.

There are four valves in the aorta that help to control the blood flow; the opening and closing of these is what makes the sound of the heartbeat. These are called aortic, mitral, tricuspid, and pulmonary. During the heart valve surgery a patient is put on a bypass machine that keeps the blood circulating doing the operation. The replacement valves can come from several different sources including human donors, and animal donors. The artificial ones are made from plastic or metal. The decision on what type of tissue to use will depend upon the general health of the patient and other health conditions.

New technology allows a surgeon to use robotic arms so that the operation is less invasive. Robotic heart surgery makes recovery time less and post operative pain is minimized. A video monitor allows the surgeon to see the site and the endoscope responds to simple voice commands. This allows the surgeon to tell the endoscope where to locate for better visualization of the site. The mechanical arms become the surgeon's eyes and hands during the operation. The incision necessary for this procedure is much smaller than possible when doing the operation conventionally. The mechanical arms can do the repair and replacement of damaged valves in very small places compared to the surgeon using his or her hands.

Smoking is one of the very worse things a person can do because it is so detrimental to health. Smoking cigarettes decreases the oxygen to the aorta, increases blood pressure and heart rate, and can damage cells to the arteries causing them to become stiff and narrow. One way to avoid robotic heart surgery is to quit smoking. Smoking not only affects the heart but can also damage the lungs causing conditions such as lung cancer and emphysema. The skin and the teeth are affected by cigarette smoke and the risk of developing other diseases will greatly be diminished when a person quits. Some of these include throat cancer, esophageal cancer, and ulcers.

Losing weight is another big issue that needs to be addressed to decrease the risks of cardiac disease, and other health problems. Being overweight can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, stroke, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, breast and colon cancer, and respiratory problems. The best way to lose weight is to increase activity and decrease calories. The healthiest way to do this is to choose to eat healthy and exercise at least 30 minutes per day five days per week. Some people think just being a few pounds overweight will not make much of a difference but anything over 10 pounds is too much and does increase the chances of obesity related problems.

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