Frequently Asked Questions

How does my doctor determine the best treatment for me?

The type of valve disease treatment that is recommended will depend on several factors, including the type of valve disease you have, how badly the valve damage is, your age and medical history. Your health care team will talk to you about your best treatment options.

Is surgery better for me than medication alone?

Medications often help during the first stages of valve disease, but they don't work as well as the disease gets worse. You do not need to wait until your symptoms become unbearable before you have surgery. In some cases, it is best to have surgery before symptoms begin. the decision to have surgery is a major one that is based on your individual needs. It involves input from you, your cardiologist and your surgeon.

How will I feel after surgery?

The way you feel after surgery depends on your overall health, how the surgery went and how well you take care of yourself after surgery. Most patients feel better after they recover. To some extent, how you feel will depend on how you felt before surgery. Patients with more severe symptoms before surgery may have a greater sense of relief after surgery. Call your doctor if you are concerned about your symptoms or the speed of your recovery.

How long will my valve last?

The amount of time your valve repair or replacement lasts depends on several things - your health at the time of surgery, the type of surgical treatment you have and how well you take care of yourself after the surgery.

Mechanical valves rarely wear out, but they may need to replaced if a blood clot, infection or tissue growth keeps them from working properly. Biological valves may need to be replaced. This is especially true for younger patients who have valve replacement surgery.

Are there any risks of major complications from the surgery?

All surgery involves risks. These risks are related to your age, other medical conditions you have and how many procedures are done in a single operation. Your cardiologist and surgeon will talk to you about these risks before your surgery. Please ask questions to make sure you understand all the potential risks and why the procedure is recommended.

Will I need to take blood-thinning medication (anticoagulants) after surgery?

The need for anticoagulant medication (blood thinners) after surgery depends on the type of surgery you have. The medication is used to prevent blood clots from forming and causing problems with your heart valve.

If you have a mechanical heart valve, you will need to take this medication for the rest of your life.

If you have valve repair or a biological valve replacement, you may need to take this medication for several weeks after surgery, or maybe not at all. It is possible that you may need to take an anticoagulant for a condition not related to your heart valves. This medication is also used as a treatment for an irregular heartbeat, an enlarged hear,t, a weakened heart and in patients with a history of blood clots.

What if I choose not to have surgery?

Depending on the type and extent of valve disease you have, you may be able to be treated with medications. You may also be able to have a non-surgical procedure. Valve disease does not go away and gets worse with time. As the disease gets worse, you will have more symptoms and your overall health will suffer. these changes often happen slowly, but they can also occur very quickly.

If you decide to not have surgery, it is recommended that you stay in close contact with your doctor. Surgery usually remains a treatment option, even for patients with advanced valve disease, and it may be the only effective treatment.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/18/2019.

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