Why Choose Penn Medicine

The team of cardiac surgeons at the Penn Heart Valve Disease Program have the expertise to treat complex aortic valve conditions. We are one of the largest valve programs in the country and perform more valve surgeries than any other health system in Pennsylvania.

U.S. News & World Report rates Penn Medicine as high performing for aortic valve surgery. We conduct repairs for aortic regurgitation when other hospitals cannot, even for patients with bicuspid aortic valve disease (BAVD).

At Penn, you can trust that you'll get the aortic valve surgery you need, when you need it. Working with experts in the Aortic Center and The Center for Bicuspid Aortic Valve Diseases, our cardiac team monitors and evaluates patients regularly to catch disease progression as early as possible.

Aortic Valve Surgery Overview

There are two types of aortic valve surgery: aortic valve repair and aortic valve replacement. Which is right for you largely depends on the condition being treated. Valves with aortic stenosis are generally replaced, while surgeons repair valves with aortic regurgitation. Your cardiac team determines the right surgery for you based on your heart structure, aortic condition, age and general health.

Aortic Valve Surgery Procedure Details

Surgeons conduct aortic valve surgery either as a traditional, open-chest surgery or minimally invasive heart surgery. With either procedure, our cardiac surgeon conducts your surgery in a state-of-the-art operating suite. One of our expert cardiac anesthesiologists will ensure that you are safely asleep for the procedure.

During an aortic valve surgery, your surgeon:

  • Connects you to a heart-lung bypass machine or bypass pump to continue the movement of blood through your body during the procedure.
  • Makes several smaller 2- to 4-inch incisions (for minimally invasive surgery) or one larger incision down the center of your chest (sternotomy) to access your heart directly.
  • Repairs or replaces your damaged aortic valve.
  • Removes you from the bypass machine.
  • Closes your incision.

Aortic Valve Replacement

Our cardiac surgeons replace aortic valves to treat aortic stenosis. Valve replacement can be done using either open surgery or minimally invasive surgery. If your surgeon needs to perform additional procedures during your aortic valve replacement, you will not be a candidate for minimally invasive heart surgery.

Your surgeon replaces the aortic valve with either a mechanical (man-made) valve or a biological valve (made from human or animal tissue). While mechanical valves last longer, you may need to take blood-thinning medication for the rest of your life. There is no medication requirement for patients receiving biological valves, which last 10 to 20 years.

Aortic Valve Repair

Penn's academic cardiac surgeons treat aortic regurgitation by repairing the valve during traditional open-chest surgery. Our surgeons also repair bicuspid valves with this method. Aortic valve repair may involve:

  • Mending holes or tears in the flaps (called perforated cusps)
  • Separating valve flaps that have fused together
  • Reshaping or removing tissue that keeps the valve from closing tightly

Cardiac Rehabilitation After Heart Valve Surgery

Recovery time after aortic valve surgery depends on whether your surgery is open or minimally invasive. To speed up recovery, your cardiologist may recommend cardiac rehabilitation. This outpatient program delivers exercise, nutrition, education and support.

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