Having heart valve repair or replacement depends on a number of factors, including:
How severe your valve disease is.
Your age and general health.
Whether you need heart surgery for other conditions, such as bypass surgery to treat CAD. Bypass surgery and valve surgery can be done at the same time.
When possible, heart valve repair is preferred over heart valve replacement. Valve repair preserves the strength and function of the heart muscle. People who have valve repair also have a lower risk for endocarditis after the surgery, and they don't need to take blood-thinning medicines for the rest of their lives. However, heart valve repair surgery is harder to do than valve replacement. Also, not all valves can be repaired. Mitral valves often can be repaired. Aortic or pulmonary valves often have to be replaced.
Repairing Heart Valves
Heart valves can be repaired by:
Separating fused valve flaps
Removing or reshaping tissue so the valve can close tighter
Adding tissue to patch holes or tears or to increase the support at the base of the valve
Replacing Heart Valves
Sometimes heart valves can't be repaired and must be replaced. This surgery involves removing the faulty valve and replacing it with a man-made valve or a biologic valve. Biologic valves are made from pig, cow, or human heart tissue and may have man-made parts as well. These valves are specially treated, so no medicines are needed to stop the body from rejecting the valve.
Man-made valves are more durable than biologic valves and usually don't have to be replaced. Biologic valves usually have to be replaced after about 10 years, although newer biologic valves may last 15 years or longer. Unlike biologic valves, however, man-made valves require you to take blood-thinning medicines for the rest of your life. These medicines prevent blood clots from forming on the valve. Blood clots can cause a heart attack or stroke. Man-made valves also raise your risk for endocarditis.