Lewis Coleman chose Dr. Thomas Molloy and Northwest
Regional Heart and Vascular for his robotic heart surgery.
Today his quality of life has drastically improved and he
credits Dr. Molloy and his team for that change.
Valvular Heart Disease
Inside your heart, four one-way valves keep the blood moving in
the right direction. They are made of thin, strong flaps of
tissue that open and close with each heartbeat.
Over a lifetime a heart can beat more than two billion times,
and valves sometimes weaken with age. Certain diseases can
damage heart valves. Some people are born with a defective
valve that worsens overtime and affects blood from flowing
If you have a heart valve problem, the best option for
correcting it may include surgery. The most appropriate
surgical treatment depends on your age, health, valve condition
and your preference. Your cardiologist and cardiac surgeon will
help you choose the right operation.
Heart Valve Surgery
Heart Valve Repair
Repairing a valve leaves the patient with normal heart anatomy
and function. The patients repaired valve better resists
infection better than a valve replacement and does not mandate
anticoagulation (blood thinning medication) after surgery.
Heart Valve Replacement
In some cases the faulty valve and its supporting structures
must be removed and replaced with a mechanical or biological
valve prosthetic. Your surgeon will discuss the pros and cons
of each type of valve prior to your surgery to help you decide
which type to use should you require a valve replacement.
What is used to replace the valve?
Heart valves can be replaced by mechanical (artificial) valves
or valves made from animal tissue (biological valves).
Mechanical valves typically do not wear out. However, people
with mechanical heart valves must take an anticoagulant
medicine for the rest of their lives to keep blood clots from
forming on the valve.
Biological valves are usually made from cow (bovine) or pig
(porcine) tissue. They are less likely to cause clots. However,
these valves are less durable, and young patients may require
another replacement later in life.
Homograft valves are procured from a human heart donor,
preserved and frozen. They are ideal valve replacement material
in the presence of infection and in older patients when aortic
root replacement is necessary.
You and your surgeon will decide which type of valve is best
Types of Valve Surgery
- Traditional, open-chest surgery For this surgery, your
surgeon makes an incision down the center of your chest and
divides the breastbone for direct access to your heart. A
heart-lung bypass machine will temporarily perform the work of
your heart while the surgeon replaces or repairs the faulty
valve. The traditional incision is rarely needed for isolated
- Minimally-Invasive Heart Valve Surgery (MIS). The majority
of Aortic valve replacements at Northwest Regional Heart and
Vascular are accomplished with a small incision between the
ribs on the right side of the chest. Both tissue and mechanical
valve can be implanted and recovery is facilitated by less
invasive incisions. A specialized CT scan (computerized
tomography) helps determine if you are an appropriate candidate
for this procedure.
- Robotic (da Vinci) Assisted Valve Surgery This uses
high-definition imaging and instruments introduced through
several tiny ports that allow precise minimally invasive
surgery. Robotic assistance is particularly useful in mitral
valve repair contributing to our team's high rate of successful
repair (95% repaired vs 5% requiring replacement). If the
problem involves blood leaking through a dilated mitral valve
your surgeon may sew a ring around the opening to restore its
normal size. The attachments of the valve to the heart
(chordae) may be replaced or the valve leaflets repaired to
allow secure closure of the valve all with robotic assistance
without the need for a large incision with division of the
breastbone. When necessary mitral valve replacement is also
accomplished with robotic assisted minimally invasive
What can I expect after surgery?
Your recovery time will depend on the type of surgery you have
and your general health status before surgery. Both minimally
invasive surgery and Robotic Assisted Valve Surgery can result
in shorter hospital stays, less pain and scarring, reduced
requirement for blood transfusions, fewer restrictions and
faster return to normal activities. The average hospital stay
at Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular for all patients
undergoing Aortic valve replacement is 4.48 days vs. 7.5 days
in the Society of Thoracic Surgeons registry data. The average
length of stay for all patients undergoing mitral valve repair
is 3.43 days compared with the national average from the
Society of Thoracic surgeons of 7.0 days.
A list of medications and appropriate activity level will be
prescribed at the time of hospital discharge. Cardiac
Rehabilitation is often recommended after heart surgery to
facilitate a return to normal activity level.