Treatment of aortic valve regurgitation depends on how severe your regurgitation is, your signs and symptoms, and whether the regurgitation is affecting your heart function.
Some people, especially those with mild regurgitation, may not need treatment. However, the condition may require monitoring by your doctor. You may need regular evaluations, with the frequency depending on how severe your condition is.
Your aortic valve may need surgical repair or replacement, even if it's not causing symptoms. While the heart is generally good at counteracting problems caused by a leaky aortic valve, if the valve isn't fixed or replaced in time, your heart may weaken permanently.
Heart valve surgery should be done at a high-volume heart valve surgery center with a reputation of excellence, and cardiologists, imaging specialists and cardiac surgeons with experience in treating heart valve conditions.
Discuss the risks and benefits of surgery with your doctor. Your surgery options include:
- Valve repair. Aortic valve repair is surgery to preserve the valve and to improve its function. Occasionally, surgeons can modify the original valve (valvuloplasty) to eliminate backward blood flow.
Valve replacement. In many cases, the aortic valve has to be replaced with a mechanical valve or a tissue valve. Mechanical valves, made from metal, are durable, but carry the risk of blood clots forming. If you receive a mechanical aortic valve, you'll need to take an anticoagulant medication, such as warfarin (Coumadin), for life to prevent blood clots.
Tissue valves — which may come from a pig, cow or human cadaver donor — often eventually need replacement. Another type of tissue valve replacement that uses your own pulmonary valve (autograft) is sometimes possible.
Less invasive techniques
Aortic valve replacement generally requires open-heart surgery under general anesthesia and with the use of a heart-lung bypass machine. Less invasive surgical techniques, such as using a small, lighted tube through a small incision to see the surgical area (laparoscopy), are being explored for aortic valve surgery.
Minimally invasive cardiac surgery is associated with less pain, a shorter hospital stay and fewer complications. However, the surgery is more complex than open-heart surgery, partly because the surgeon can't see the valve as well. Talk to your surgeon to see if this type of surgery might be right for you.
Sept. 03, 2014
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