Options and Considerations for Heart Valve Surgery

Is it possible to treat valve diseases with medications alone?

Most valve conditions can't be treated with medication alone. However, sometimes the problem is not severe enough to require surgical repair, but it is bothersome enough to cause symptoms or risks. In cases like these, a condition might be effectively managed for a while with medication.

In some cases, medications may be prescribed for patients with valvular disease to:

  1. Reduce unpleasant symptoms that accompany milder forms of the disorder.
  2. Maintain heart rhythm if a related arrhythmia is present.
  3. Reduce calcification in and around coronary arteries.
  4. Lower the patient’s risk for clotting and stroke.

Valve dysfunction is usually a progressive disease, and among those who receive no treatment, the outlook can be poor. But many who do receive treatment go on to live very full and healthy lives, especially when their cardiovascular risks are otherwise low.

What happens if I don’t treat my condition or choose to ignore the recommended procedures?

Valve disease is not a condition that should be ignored when treatment is recommended. When a person’s aortic stenosis becomes severe, the average survival rate without surgical intervention is only 50 percent after two years and only 20 percent after five years.

Evidence is also clear that with proper treatment, most people enjoy a return to good health and add many years to their life.

Understanding your heart valve problem: Which solution may be right for you?

Walk through a step-by-step interactive guide explaining your valve issue and treatment options with helpful videos, text summaries and links along the way.

Heart valve treatment explorer screenshot

What are the risks associated with valve disease treatment?

As with all surgeries, there are inherent risks. You can reduce your risks by choosing a surgeon and surgery center with well-documented experience treating patients with similar conditions as yours. Because every patient’s risk factors are different, your doctor and your hospital personnel will be able to assess your risks and choose the best treatment for you.

People who have damaged, repaired or replaced heart valves are also at increased risk for developing an infection of the valve (endocarditis).

Is it true that even dental work can increase risks for people with heart valve problems?

It depends. Until recently, the American Heart Association recommended giving antibiotics to prevent endocarditis to these patients before they had dental work. However, those guidelines have changed — the American Heart Association no longer recommends antibiotics before dental procedures, except for patients at the highest risk for bad outcomes from endocarditis. If a person has had heart valve surgery, but has not had a heart valve replaced, their cardiologist or surgeon will tell them if they need antibiotics. Read more about the antibiotic prophylaxis guidelines for infective endocarditis.

People who have had heart valve surgery will probably be placed on an anticoagulant to prevent blood clots from forming.

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