When to Have Heart Valve Surgery

You may need heart valve surgery if your heart valves become damaged or diseased. Heart valve disease impacts how efficiently your heart pumps blood. Heart valve surgery aims to restore valve functionality and reduce symptoms by repairing or replacing the damaged valve.

Dignity Health offers advanced cardiac diagnostic procedures and treatment protocols, including heart valve surgery, in the Bay Area. Find a Doctor today to discuss concerns about your heart. 

Types of Heart Valve Surgery & Why They are Performed

If you’ve been diagnosed with heart valve disease, you may live for years without needing treatment. However, because a heart with a damaged valve works harder than usual, over time you can develop life-threatening complications, such as heart failure

Your doctor may recommend heart valve surgery if you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as shortness of breath, dizziness and passing out, fatigue, and fluid retention. The exact surgery you have depends on your overall health, which valve needs treatment, and other factors. 

The most common heart valve surgeries are:

  • Minimally invasive heart valve repair. A catheter (thin, flexible tube) is threaded to the heart through a large blood vessel in your leg, arm, or neck to make repairs 
  • Minimally invasive valve replacement. A procedure such as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) replaces a damaged or diseased valve
  • Traditional open heart surgery. Your surgeon makes a large incision in the chest to access your heart and replaces the damaged valve. 

Know What to Expect

Your heart valve surgery will take place in one of our state-of-the-art operating rooms. Depending on whether your procedure is minimally invasive or an open heart surgery, you will receive either general anesthesia or sedation to keep you comfortable.

If your surgeon is using a catheter during a minimally invasive surgery, you may feel some mild pain or pressure in your chest as the valve is being repaired or replaced. This sensation is normal — do not be concerned. 

During open heart surgery, a heart-lung machine is used to pump your blood, allowing your surgeon to operate on your heart when it is still.

In the days after your surgery, specially trained nurses monitor your heart rhythm and vitals signs in a special cardiac care room. 

Heart Valve Surgery Recovery

The typical recovery time from heart valve surgery is two to eight weeks, depending on the procedure. Minimally invasive surgeries generally involve faster recovery periods, compared with traditional open heart surgeries. 

Before you go home, your Dignity Health care team will provide you with detailed take-home instructions for incision wound care, the types and levels of activity in which you may participate, your diet, bathing limitations, and more. 

At Dignity Health, our cardiac care services range from prevention and chronic disease management to treatment of heart attacks. Take our online heart risk assessment to learn more about your heart health.

Dignity Health offers cardiac care services in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.