What is a Heart Valve Replacement Operation?

Dr. Guy Fradet, MD, FACS, FRCSC, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, discusses heart valve replacement surgery.

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Dr. Guy Fradet, MD, FACS, FRCSC, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, discusses heart valve replacement surgery.
Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Guy Fradet, MD, FACS, FRCSC, Cardiothoracic Surgeon
Video Title:What is a Heart Valve Replacement Operation?
Duration: 3 minutes

So valve surgery or valve replacement surgery in cardiac surgery is a very common procedure.

Almost as equal but if not pretty close to coronary artery bypass surgery. So the other most common type of valve that will be used for replacement is what we call tissue or valve prosthesis. The most common tissues are cow tissue, made of the heart sac of the cow, or pig valve, and sometimes a combination of both.

Now there’s other options where we can use a cadaver valve or we can actually use a valve in another part of your heart and transfer it there. But those are the specific indications for that and it’s usually not the most common procedure.

So if we restrict ourselves to mechanical and the tissue valve that’s usually the discussion you’ll have with your heart surgeons. We already mentioned that the mechanical valve you will have to go on blood thinners because they tend to clot.

There are some risks associated with that for the rest of your life the other option is to take the tissue valve, you don’t necessarily need the blood thinner. You can just be on aspirin, but they wear out with time.

And the younger you are when you get them, the faster they wear. So there’s specific indications again, but if you’re an elderly, probably a good option. So the most common valve that usually gets replaced is the aortic valve, and the most common reason is because it wears out.

This is the aorta there where the red blood comes out of the heart, and the valve is right there. The role of the valve is to prevent the blood when the heart ejects or pumps. When it relaxes, the valve closes and it prevents the blood going back into the heart.

Typically the way we replace that valve is we make a cut in that pipe, and already by that time you’re on cardiopulmonary bypass so you’re connected to a machine that takes the blood away from your heart and your lungs. 

The machine does the work, and we stop the heart, and it allows us to open, do our work so through that pipe here we go and take that valve out. And we’ll put either a tissue valve or a mechanical valve and then we close and we fill the heart back with blood, and then we restart the heart, and we’re done.

If you think that you need valve replacement surgery or valve interventions, the first step again is discuss this with your family doctor. He can then refer you to the appropriate person typically the cardiologist or the surgical team. 

Most commonly it would a team that’s assessing you, your options will be reviewed, and recommendation based on your lifestyle and your comorbidities.

Presenter: Dr. Guy Fradet, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Kelowna, BC

Local Practitioners: Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Video Quiz ( 600 participated.)

Test your knowledge by answering the following questions:


The most common valve that needs replacing is the aortic valve.


Replacing a valve does not require the patient to be put onto a bypass machine.


When replacing a damaged heart valve there are different types of valves available, some are biological and some mechanical.


Tissue or 'biological' valves wear out over time and are therefor not always a good option for younger patients. 

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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