The decision to have surgery is something that most of us don’t take lightly. Even relatively minor or common surgeries may be emotionally stressful.
Unfortunately, sometimes the surgery you need may not be minor. Such surgeries may in fact be necessary to correct a serious health condition, improve quality of life, and in some cases, to save your life.
One type of surgery that may be particularly stressful and cause much anxiety for the patient is the need for any type of open heart surgery. One of the common types of surgical procedures performed on cardiac patients is heart valve surgery.
Here, we’ll take a closer look at heart valves and why heart valve surgery might be necessary in some cases.
What are heart valves? What do they do?
All of us have four heart valves. They are aortic, mitral, tricuspid, and pulmonary.
The valves operate in much the same way as a gate at a dam might work. When there is too much water in the lake, gates are opened allowing the excess water to flow downstream.
Imagine the downstream flooding that would occur if the gate never closed! Conversely, imagine the flooding on the lake side if the gate were unable to open at the proper time and allow the excess water to flow where it needed to go.
Heart valves function in much the same manner. Think of a heart valve as a gate that opens, allowing blood to flow into or out of the different chambers of your heart or heart arteries.
As long as your heart valves are opening and closing at the proper time, the blood flow continues just as it’s supposed to.
On the other hand, when one of your heart valves fails to open or close at the proper time, serious heart problems can occur.
What causes a heart valve to quit functioning properly?
There are several reasons why a heart valve might fail to function as designed. Sometimes, defective heart valves are the result of a congenital, or birth, defect. In other cases, aortic valve disease may be the culprit, leading to a damaged heart valve.
Conditions such as rheumatic fever, a complication of strep throat, have been linked to damaged aortic valves.