Aortic valve replacement is a type of open-heart surgery where the aortic valve is removed and replaced with an artificial valve. These operations are performed when the patient’s own valve does not open properly (aortic stenosis), does not close properly (aortic insuffiency), or becomes infected (endocarditis).
Aortic valve surgery is typically performed by dividing the breastbone to expose the heart. The heart-lung machine is used because the patient’s heart is stopped for a short period during the operation. Stopping the heart allows the surgeon to open the heart and replace the diseased valve.
After the operation, you will wake up in the intensive care unit. During the first few days after surgery, you will be monitored closely, and may have drains coming out of your chest, which collect air and fluid. You may also have a temporary pacemaker. These are usually removed in a few days as you recover from surgery.
Most people are in the hospital less than a week after surgery, and are discharged home once they can perform the activities of daily living independently. Some people benefit from physical therapy and rehabilitation, which can be outpatient or inpatient after surgery. It can take 2-3 months to fully recover from surgery.