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Aortic valve replacement

Overview of aortic valve replacement

Aortic valve replacement surgery removes or replaces a diseased or damaged heart valve with a new one. This helps your heart deliver better blood flow to your body.

If you are experiencing troublesome symptoms, we’re here for you. Find a cardiologist at Dignity Health and make an appointment to learn more about aortic valve replacement.

Why it’s necessary

Aortic valve stenosis occurs when the aortic valve in the heart is too stiff to allow blood to travel freely through the heart. Over time, this leads to a lack of oxygen saturation in the body, which makes it harder for the body to function and can negatively impact your health.

Before recommending this kind of surgery, your doctor will order several tests to determine how advanced the stenosis is and whether you are a candidate.

Aortic stenosis typically gets worse over time. Doctors therefore categorize aortic stenosis as mild, moderate, or severe. These categories are based on how damaged your aortic valve is.

Diagnostic tests assessing whether you are a candidate for aortic valve replacement look at the size and shape of your aortic valve, the size of your heart muscle, and the amount of blood flowing from your heart into your aorta.

Common conditions treated with aortic valve replacement

Aortic valve replacement treats aortic stenosis.The aortic valve allows oxygen-rich blood to flow out of the heart and into the aorta to the rest of your body. Aortic valve stenosis (narrowing) and aortic valve regurgitation deprive your body of vital oxygen. Aortic valve stenosis restricts blood flow out of the heart, while regurgitation from a valve that closes improperly allows blood to leak backward from the aorta into the heart.

Some people experience aortic stenosis as a result of a congenital heart defect called a bicuspid aortic valve. Radiation therapy (such as is used in cancer treatments) can cause heart damage, as can some contagious conditions such as rheumatic fever. However, aortic stenosis is most commonly linked to age-related damage to the aortic valve, including damage caused by calcium buildup.


Dignity Health performs two main types of aortic valve replacement: surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR) and transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

Surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR)

Most people receive SAVR. During this procedure, the doctor makes an incision in the sternum (breastbone) to open the chest cavity and access the heart. The heart is temporarily stopped, and circulation is routed through a bypass machine. The doctor removes the defective valve and replaces it with a biological (human or animal) or mechanical valve.

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)

Patients who are not healthy enough for open-heart surgery may qualify for TAVR. The surgeon makes an incision in a large artery in the groin or chest for access to the aortic valve. After navigating a thin, flexible wire through the artery to the heart, the doctor inserts a new synthetic valve inside the existing aortic valve.


Aortic valve replacement requires general anesthesia, meaning you will be asleep for the duration of the procedure. Like any other surgery, aortic valve replacement comes with some risks. Potential complications include blood clots, a reaction to anesthesia, heart attack, or stroke.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.