Aortic Valve Replacement
Aortic valve replacement is heart surgery performed to replace a malfunctioning aortic valve, due to narrowing (stenosis) or leakage (regurgitation). The aortic valve can malfunction because of a congenital abnormality (abnormal from birth) or an acquired disease (diseased with age).
One of the most common congenital heart defects affecting babies is a bicuspid aortic valve, where the aortic valve does not develop normally while the baby is in the womb. A normal aortic valve has three leaflets, whereas a bicuspid aortic valve has only two leaflets. Patients with a bicuspid aortic valve may develop a narrowing or leakage of the aortic valve.
Two types of prosthetic (artificial) valves are available to replace the malfunctioning aortic valve:
Mechanical valves are created from man-made materials and are very durable. Because there is a tendency for blood to clot on mechanical valves, patients with artificial valves must take anticoagulants (sometimes called "blood thinners") for the rest of their lives. This medication prevents blood clots from forming on or around the valve.
Biological (tissue) valves are taken from pig, cow, or human donors. Xenograft valves are made from animal tissues, while homograft or allograft valves are retrieved from human cadavers. Pulmonary autograft valves are moved from the patient's pulmonary artery on the right side of the heart to the aortic position on the left. Biological valves don't last as long as mechanical valves, but the use of an anticoagulant often isn't needed.