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What is involved in valve replacement procedures?

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A heart valve replacement procedure may involve small incisions or a sternotomy, depending on the risk of surgery, the valve that needs replacement and the severity of the symptoms, according to the American Heart Association. Surgical and valve replacement is performed by replacing a damaged valve with a mechanical or tissue valve, using a Ross Procedure or with a transcatheter aortic valve replacement.

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The Ross Procedure involves the replacement of a damaged aortic valve with the patient's own pulmonary valve, details the American Heart Association. The pulmonary valve is then replaced with a donor valve. In the transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure, a replacement valve is wedged into the aortic valve's location via a minimally invasive surgical procedure. After the replacement valve is positioned, the damaged valve is pushed out of the way, and blood flow is regulated by tissue in the replacement valve.

Mechanical valves are made from carbon, metal or plastic, explains the Texas Heart Institute. Mechanical valves are strong and last a long time, but patients with mechanical valves must take blood thinning medication because blood can stick to mechanical valves, creating blood clots.

Tissue valves, or biological valves, are made from animal tissue or the human tissue of a donated heart, notes the Texas Heart Institute. Tissue valve replacement material is not as strong as the material used in mechanical valves, so these valves are replaced approximately every 10 years. Blood thinning medications are not typically necessary for patients with tissue valves.

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