Aortic Valve - Medical Negligence Lawyers
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Aortic valve replacement surgery is a risky surgery in which the aortic valve, which signals the last of the blood flow through the heart and the entrance of blood into the vasculature, is removed and replaced with an artificial valve. It is done when the individual's own aortic valve has become narrowed, interfering with the outflow of the heart, or is leaky so that blood leaks backward into the heart during a heartbeat. If you have any concerns about your treatment, please use the helpline to speak to an Aortic Valve medical negligence lawyer at no cost and with no further obligation.
There are two types of valves used in most cases:
- A biprosthetic valve or biological valve. This is a situation where a valve is harvested from another human being, a pig, a horse or a cow.
- A mechanical valve, made from metallic and other synthetic materials.
The surgery is risky because it is an open heart surgery involving a large chest incision, cutting through the sternum, stopping the movement of the heart and opening of the area around the valve.
Reasons for Surgery
A person needs an aortic valve replacement for two major reasons. The basis of these reasons can include having a congenital heart problem or from having a particular bacterial infection that has settled on an otherwise normal valve. When the symptoms become severe, it is time to do the surgical procedure. The reasons one might need a valve replacement of the aortic valve include:
- Having aortic stenosis. In such cases, the valve has narrowed down so that the blood cannot push adequately through the valve as it exits the heart. In aortic valve stenosis, the leaflets of the valve have coalesced and degenerated so that what's left is a calcified narrowed ring.
- Having aortic regurgitation. The valve leaflets are floppy or loose so that blood shunts back into the heart as soon as it enters the body's vasculature. This diminishes the blood flow to the rest of the body. It is also called aortic incompetence or aortic insufficiency.
Not all cases of aortic valve replacement need surgery. In fact, one complication involves doing surgery when it was not actually necessary. If, however, the aortic valve problem is considered severe, then surgery is likely necessary. Patients who need surgery may or may not have symptoms, even if the surgery is necessary due to severe disease. Patients can have a tiny heart murmur and may still have serious disease as identified using echocardiograms of the heart.
If surgery is not done in a timely fashion, the patient can have severe complications, such as an enlarged heart or heart failure as a result of pushing blood through a narrow hole. If the doctors wait until the heart has already significantly enlarged, it may mean ongoing symptoms and problems after the surgery is over. Heart failure is possible.
Type of Valve
Before surgery, the type of artificial valve is selected. It can be completely artificial or it can be biological, based on tissue from various animals. Pig valves are especially common. The mechanical valve is made from durable metallic materials and certain polymers. These are designed to stave off bacterial infections. They are said to last for 30 years after placement but one complication could be the failure of the valve long before the valves expected lifespan.
Biologic valves are made from humans, pigs, cows and horses. These valves are treated chemically so that there is less of a chance of tissue infection and tissue rejection. These are common complications of the biological type of valve. The life expectancy of the biologic valve is ten to fifteen years.
There can be serious complications from having the aortic valve replaced. Blood clots can get on an artificial mechanical valve and can send clots to the brain, leading to a stroke. The person can have a stroke or heart attack during the surgery. Infection can gather on the implanted valve causing serious infectious complications. Patients need to take blood thinners in some cases and can have an overdose of the medication and can bleed out from thin blood.
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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here