Cardiac problems are usually serious and the earlier they are diagnosed and treated, the better. Among the most common heart problems are those related to the functioning of the valves. The heart has 4 valves that work to keep blood continually flowing through the body. Any problem, with any of the valves, will affect the flow of the blood and by doing so, have a major impact on overall health to the possible extent of resulting in death.
Heart Valve Treatment
If the valve problem is minor and caught in the early stages, medication is often used to try and correct it. If that does not succeed or if the problem is a more serious one, there are 2 surgical options for treating heart valve problems – surgery to repair the valve or replacing it with an artificial one. Both are major procedures and must be performed by specialized cardiac surgeons at hospitals that are properly equipped to handle such procedures. Minimally invasive surgery is now being applied to cardiac valve repair or replacement, but it may not be suitable for all patients and it is still a major procedure.
The decision as to whether to repair or replace the valve is made only after a detailed diagnosis and examination are done. This includes:
- The patient’s medical history
- Genetic factors and family history of heart disease
- Lifestyle issues
- The overall health of the patient
- The exact nature of the valve problem
- And many other factors
In the case of valve replacement is required, there are 2 options – using a mechanical valve or a biological one. Mechanical valves are made of metal (typically stainless steel or titanium) or are ceramic. These valves are long-lasting, but the patient will need to take blood-thinning medications for the rest of his or her life to enable the new valve to function efficiently. In the case of biological valves, these are made from animal or human tissue. These are typically not as long-lasting and usually last between 12 to 15 years. However, with a biological valve, there is normally no need to take blood-thinning medication.
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Heart Valve Replacement and Repair, Which Is The Right Option?
It is easy to be misled by information found online or by the advice of well-wishers who do not have expert knowledge of these matters. Patients often have their own preference for repair or replacement, but this should not be a determining factor in deciding on the path to follow. Just as there are 2 types of replacement valves that may be used, there are several surgical techniques that may be used for valve repair. Only a Cardiac Specialist will be able to evaluate all the variables in each case and make a decision on which is right for a patient
If you suspect you have the following symptoms, it is imperative to have the condition checked and diagnosed by a Cardiologist without delay:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty catching your breath
- Dizziness or too weak to perform your normal activities.
- Pressure or weight in your chest
- Heart palpitations irregular heartbeats
- Swelling in your ankles, feet, or belly.
- Sudden weight gain
The diagnosis tests that will be carried out will include:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
- X-Ray of Chest
- Transoesophageal Echocardiography
If you have been diagnosed with a heart valve issue, obtaining a second opinion is often the standard practice. Once the existence of a valve problem is confirmed, the Cardiologist/Cardiac Surgeon will recommend the best treatment option which will be:
- Medications for the symptoms
- Surgical Procedure – Heart Valve Replacement and Repair.
Having a cardiac condition is always a cause for concern and under this stress and pressure, it is easy to misunderstand the nature of the problem and to make the wrong decisions about the treatment that is required. Having expert advice and assistance on the treatment plan will allow the patient to receive the right treatment and care.