Aortic valve surgery involves the replacement or repair of the valve that attaches the aorta to the heart, explains the Cleveland Clinic. The aortic valve is one of four, and if it becomes severely damaged surgery may be required. Several factors determine whether to replace or repair the valve.
Aortic valve surgery is performed using a traditional approach which involves a large incision in the chest, or it can be done with minimally invasive techniques using smaller incisions.
Aortic valve surgery is used to correct certain conditions such as an inflexible or leaky valve, a valve with only two flaps rather than three and various acquired valve diseases, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Doctors consider an individual's age, heart structure, diagnostic test results and other factors when determining whether to repair or replace a valve. Valves that are enlarged or torn and those with only two flaps can sometimes be repaired.
Most replacement procedures use a mechanical valve, but in some cases a donated human valve is used. A mechanical replacement valve requires the lifetime use of an anticoagulant drug, so younger patients sometimes choose a special procedure called the Ross operation, notes the Cleveland Clinic. This surgery entails the removal of a patient's pulmonary valve to replace the aortic valve, and the pulmonary valve is then replaced with a biological one. The procedure leaves two valves vulnerable to future failure.