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Why must tubes placed to correct pulmonary valves in children be replaced?

A normal human heart has four valves that direct blood flow through the heart, making sure that blood travels in one direction. Many forms of congenital heart disease (present at birth) involve the pulmonary valve, which connects the heart to the blood vessels on the lungs. Patients with this form of congenital heart disease may require some form of open-heart surgery in which a tube is placed across this area to allow blood to freely pass to the lungs.

However, these tubes only last for several years. Here’s why:

  • The materials used do not grow with the child so the child may outgrow the existing tube.
  • The tube can become narrowed over time.
  • If the tube does not have a valve in it, the blood that is pumped out from the heart can leak backward, making the heart work harder than it is supposed to.

Typically, if any of these occur, the child will require an open-heart surgery to replace the tube, usually with a larger tube that has a working valve inside. Alternatively, some children can have a new valve placed using a long, flexible tube called a catheter, instead of through more invasive open-heart surgery.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.