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Aortic Valve Replacement

Clinical Heart and Vascular Center

The experienced heart doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center have performed more minimally invasive aortic valve replacements than doctors at any other North Texas center – and our team is a leader in developing new treatments for valve disorders.

Offering both minimally invasive and traditional approaches to aortic valve replacement, we have the expertise to help patients suffering from aortic stenosis and aortic regurgitation.

Experienced Surgeons, Innovative Surgical Options

Aortic valve replacement is considered the optimal surgical treatment for people suffering from aortic stenosis or aortic regurgitation (also called aortic valve insufficiency).

Replacement (prosthetic) valves are either mechanical or biological. Mechanical valves are made of metal, last longer, and require anticoagulation. Biological valves are made of human or animal tissue, require less anticoagulation, and have a shorter life span.

While UT Southwestern offers traditional aortic valve replacement, our specialists strive to perform minimally invasive procedures whenever possible. In most cases, we’re able to replace damaged aortic valves without open surgery, which significantly reduces our patients’ pain and recovery time.

UT Southwestern is also home to a dedicated Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. Cardiac rehabilitation is a critical component of recovery and can prevent future heart disease.

Treatment

UT Southwestern heart doctors use several surgical techniques to replace damaged aortic valves, depending on patients’ needs.

Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement

A leading-edge alternative to open-heart surgery for many patients, transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a minimally invasive procedure, performed by inserting a catheter through the groin.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved TAVR for use in patients ineligible for traditional aortic valve surgery because of age, comorbidities, previous open-heart surgery, or other high risks. Patients can be back on their feet and enjoying life just a few days after the procedure.

Minimally Invasive Aortic Valve Replacement

In patients for whom TAVR is not a treatment option, our doctors might opt for a standard minimally invasive aortic valve replacement. This procedure involves making several small incisions between the ribs to reach the heart and replace the damaged valve.

Traditional Aortic Valve Replacement

For some patients, traditional open-heart surgery is the most appropriate way to replace a damaged aortic valve.

In this procedure, the surgeon begins by making an incision in the midline of the chest and spreads the chest cavity to reach the heart. The patient is then placed on a cardiopulmonary bypass machine – which pumps blood to the body, bypassing the heart except for the coronary arteries – while the heart is stopped temporarily.

An incision is made in the aorta to access the aortic valve. The valve leaflets are removed before the prosthetic valve is placed.

The heart is then closed and restarted, and the blood is allowed to flow back through the heart. Pacing wires are placed on the heart in case there are any irregular heart rhythms during the recovery period in the hospital, and the chest is closed with wires and stitches.

After traditional aortic valve replacement surgery, the patient is taken to the intensive care unit and monitored. Pain is likely, and pain medication is given as appropriate. Patients might also be on a respirator for up to a day after the surgery.

The length of the hospital stay depends on how quickly the patient is able to recover and perform some physical activity.

Support Services

UT Southwestern’s cardiac rehabilitation specialists will create a customized plan that makes nutrition, exercise, and nicotine-cessation programs an integral part of a patient’s daily routine after aortic valve replacement.

Clinical Trials

As one of the nation’s top academic medical centers, UT Southwestern offers a number of clinical trials aimed at improving the outcomes of patients with cardiovascular disease.

For example, we are taking part in ongoing trials of transcatheter aortic valve replacement in moderate-risk patients.

Clinical trials often give patients access to leading-edge treatments that are not yet widely available. Eligible patients who choose to participate in one of UT Southwestern’s clinical trials can receive treatments years before they are available to the public.

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