Sometimes a natural heart valve that is not working properly needs to be replaced surgically with a prosthetic valve. A prosthetic valve is a synthetic or tissue substitute for the natural valve. It is designed to mimic the natural valve's normal opening and closing motions. A prosthetic valve can replace any of the three heart valves – aortic, pulmonary or tricuspid. Prosthetic heart valves are divided into two basic categories: synthetic mechanical valves and biological valves made of human or animal tissue.
What It's Used For
The reasons for a heart valve replacement vary slightly, depending on which of the four heart valves is involved. As a general guide, however, you may need a valve replacement for any of the following reasons:
You have significant valve narrowing (stenosis) or leaking (regurgitation) that is causing severe cardiac symptoms, such as angina (chest pain), shortness of breath, syncope (fainting spells) or symptoms of heart failure.
Although your cardiac symptoms are not yet severe, diagnostic tests show that you have valve stenosis or regurgitation that is beginning to seriously affect your heart function.
You have milder valve stenosis or regurgitation, but you need open heart surgery for another reason (such as coronary artery bypass). Your problematic heart valve can be replaced during this open-heart procedure, correcting the situation before it has the chance to deteriorate.
Your heart valve has been damaged severely by endocarditis (infection of the heart valve), or you have endocarditis that is resistant to antibiotics.
You already have a prosthetic heart valve, but it needs to be replaced because it is leaking or malfunctioning, because you are having recurring blood clots or infection on the heart valve, or because you are having bleeding problems related to anticoagulants.
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