There are four valves inside the heart to allow blood to pass in one direction only. Occasionally these valves may become narrowed, causing obstruction to the flow of blood called stenosis,or may leak, allowing blood to flow backwards within the heart (insufficiency),affecting the efficiency of the heart’s function. Occasionally these valves may be damaged by infection (endocarditis). The two most commonly involved valves are the aortic and the mitral valves. The aortic valve will usually be replaced. The mitral valve is frequently suitable for repair but, if this is not possible, a replacement will be undertaken.
There are two types of replacement valves. One is a tissue valve (bioprosthesis) made from the aortic valve of a pig or the sack around the heart of a cow (pericardium). The other type is a mechanical valve that is made from a very durable material called pyrolytic carbon. Your surgeon will decide ,which way is most suitable for you. It is essential to use the heart lung machine (cardiopulmonary bypass) for heart valve surgery.
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