What happens during an aortic valve replacement surgery?
The notion of having your chest opened and your heart exposed is enough to give you pause, even if you need a aortic valve replacement. In this Ask the Experts video with Dr. Craig Smith, a cardiothoracic surgeon, tells what happens during surgery.
CRAIG R. SMITH: Well, during a conventional aortic valve replacement operation, the patient is put to sleep with a tube in their windpipe,
lying on their back. [LOW-FI ELECTRONIC MUSIC]
Chest is opened usually through the center of the chest with some variations on that theme but, generally speaking, through the center of the chest,
through the sternum. The heart's exposed by pushing the halves of the sternum apart.
The heart is connected to a heart-lung machine with connections to the aorta and the venous system to return blood to and from the heart-lung machine
so that the heart can be stopped.
A clamp is put across the aorta so that blood can't get to the coronaries. The heart arrests, it stops, and it's empty.
In an empty arrested state, we open the aorta, remove the valve, pull out all the calcium
that's built up on the valve as much as possible so that we can place sutures around it, then sutures around where the valve used to be.
The sutures are put through a valve. The valve is run down the sutures in place, tied in position, and the aorta is closed.
And gradually the work of circulation is passed back to the patient from the heart-lung machine, and off we go.
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