Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: How do I know if my new valve isn't working correctly?

Ask the doctor

How do I know if my new valve isn't working correctly?

Q. I had a mechanical valve put in to replace a stiff aortic valve. But it hasn't made a big difference in how I feel. I still get short of breath when I try to walk fast. Could it be the wrong size, or not working properly?

A. There are a number of reasons why you might still have trouble catching your breath during exercise after getting a new aortic valve. It could be due to a problem in your lungs, something that would not have been changed by your new heart valve. It is possible that the strain your leaking aortic valve put on your heart could have caused your left ventricle to enlarge. In some people, an enlarged left ventricle causes persistent shortness of breath even after an aortic valve replacement. Another possibility is that you just need more time to recover from open-heart surgery. Your muscles may be out of shape, or blood loss during the operation could have made you anemic, which makes the heart and lungs work harder.

It is possible that your new valve is too small, which would impede blood flow to the aorta "" the main pipeline for blood flow to the body. This would cause shortness of breath. But it is extremely rare that this happens.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »