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What happens during aortic valve replacement surgery?

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Quick Answer

During aortic valve replacement surgery, a surgeon cuts open the patient's chest, establishes heart-lung bypass, removes the old valve and attaches the new valve, according to WebMD. The doctor then removes the heart-lung bypass and closes the chest, and the patient begins his recovery in the intensive care unit.

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Full Answer

To open the patient's chest during aortic valve replacement surgery, the surgeon outlines the incision with a marker, then usually cuts down the middle of the chest from the top of the rib cage to barely above the belly button, cutting through the sternum, notes WebMD. Once the doctor can see the heart, he inserts a tube into the right atrium of the patient and places him on a heart-lung bypass machine. The doctor then stops the patient's heart to reduce the risk of serious bleeding and to make it easier to work on the heart.

To remove the old valve, the surgeon makes a cut to expose it, then cuts out the part of the valve that is going to be replaced, states WebMD. After aligning the new valve and checking to make sure it is in the proper position, the surgeon sews it into place. If there are no leaks, the surgeon ties off and trims the stitches used during valve placement. After allowing blood to flow through the new valve, and if there are no other complications, the surgeon restores blood flow and removes the patient from the bypass machine. He then closes the sternum with heavy-gauge steel wire and stitches the incision in the patient's chest.

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