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Acute Care Advisor 2018.1 © 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries

What is aortic valve replacement?

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The heart has four valves that work together to keep blood flowing in the right direction. They are the tricuspid, pulmonic, mitral, and aortic valves. They are made of thin tissue and open and close easily to allow blood to flow into and out of the heart.

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The aortic valve is located between the lower left side of the heart and the aorta (the blood vessel that carries blood to the rest of the body). If you have a problem with your aortic valve, it either may not open all the way or may be unable to close completely. When the aortic valve narrows (called aortic valve stenosis), the valve does not open all the way, so the heart has to work harder to pump blood to the body. When the aortic valve does not close completely between heartbeats, blood can move backward in the heart (called aortic valve regurgitation). Problems with the aortic valve cause your heart to work harder to pump blood with each beat, which may put too much strain on your heart.

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Your aortic valve may have been replaced with tissue from a cow, pig, or donated human tissue (biological valve), or by man-made materials (mechanical valve). In some cases, the surgeon may have used your pulmonic valve to replace your aortic valve, which is called a Ross or Switch procedure.

How can I take care of myself when I go home?

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How long it takes to get better depends on the type of surgery you have, how well you recover, your overall health, and any complications you may have.

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Management

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  • Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.

    • Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.

    • Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.

    • Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.

    • Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines.

  • Ask your healthcare provider if you should take aspirin and if so, how much to take. Taking a low-dose aspirin every day may help prevent a heart attack or stroke. However, not everyone should take aspirin.

  • Your provider may prescribe medicine to:

    • Treat pain

    • Treat or prevent an infection

    • Help prevent blood clots

    • Soften stool and reduce straining with a bowel movement

  • Your provider may recommend other types of therapy to help relieve pain, other symptoms, or side effects of treatment.

  • To care for your surgical wound:

    • Keep your surgical wound clean.

    • If you are told to change the dressing on your surgical wound, wash your hands before changing the dressing and after disposing of the dressing.

  • Follow the treatment plan your healthcare provider prescribes. This may include heart (cardiac) rehab after you are discharged from the hospital.

  • Ask your healthcare provider if there are any foods or medicines you should avoid.

  • Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Stay physically active as advised by your provider.

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Appointments

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  • Follow your provider's instructions for follow-up appointments.

  • Keep appointments for any testing you may need.

  • Talk with your provider about any questions or concerns you have.

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Call emergency medical services or 911 if you have new or worsening:

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  • Chest pain or pressure, squeezing, or fullness in the center of your chest that lasts more than few minutes, or goes away and comes back (may feel like indigestion or heartburn)

  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders, or in your back, neck, jaw, or stomach

  • Trouble breathing

  • Breaking out in a cold sweat for no known reason

  • If your provider has prescribed nitroglycerin for angina, pain that does not go away after taking your nitroglycerin as directed

  • Along with the previous symptoms, feeling very tired, faint, or sick to your stomach

  • Weakness, numbness, tingling or pain in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of your body

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Do not drive yourself if you have any of these symptoms.

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Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:

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  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Easy bruising or bleeding

  • Feeling like your heart is beating too fast, too slow, or skipping beats

  • Pain that is not well controlled with your medicine

  • Signs of infection around your surgical wound. These include:

    • The area around your wound is more red or painful.

    • Your wound area is very warm to touch.

    • You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from the wound area.

    • You have a fever higher than 101.5° F (38.6° C).

    • You have chills or muscle aches.

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Ask your healthcare provider about any medicine, treatment, or information that you do not understand.

References

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Transcatheter aortic valve replacement. The Society for Thoracic Surgeons. http://ctsurgerypatients.org/adult-heart-disease/aortic-valve-disease. Updated June 2016. Accessed April 2017.
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Braunwald E, Bonow RO. 2012. Braunwald's heart disease: a textbook of cardiovascular medicine (9th ed.). Philadelphia: Saunders.
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Valve repair or replacement. Texas Heart Institute. http://www.texasheart.org/HIC/Topics/Proced/vsurg.cfm. Updated August 2016. Accessed April 2017.
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Options for heart valve replacement. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/HeartValveProblemsandDisease/Options-for-Heart-Valve-Replacement_UCM_450816_Article.jsp#.WPeJ7E0m7ik. Updated May 2016. Accessed April 2017.

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Developed by Change Healthcare.

Published by Change Healthcare.

Produced in Cork, Ireland.

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

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