Heart valve repair or replacement surgery is a treatment option for valvular heart disease. When heart valves become damaged, they may not function properly. When one or more valves become stiff, the heart muscle has to work harder to pump the blood through the valve. The diseased valves need to be surgically replaced.
The valve replacement involves an open heart surgery. Breast bone or sternum is cut in half and spread apart. The heart is stopped for some time so that the surgeon can open the heart and replace the valve. Large tubes are inserted in the body so that the heart lung machine can pump the blood to the body when the heart has been stopped.
If the heart valves become damaged, the following symptoms are experienced by the patient.
- Chest pain
- Breathing difficulties
- Swelling of the feet, ankles or the abdomen.
- Rapid weight gain due to fluid retention
The following are the possible risks associated with valve replacement surgery.
- Bleeding during and after surgery
- Blood clots that can cause heart attack, stroke or lung problem
- Infection at the incision site
- Breathing problem
- Abnormal heart rhythm
After the surgery, the patient is kept in the intensive care unit so that his condition can be monitored. There is a tube put in the throat connected to a ventilator for breathing till the patient becomes stable to breathe on his own. When the patient becomes awake to breathe completely by himself, and is able to cough, the breathing tube is removed.
The nurse will assist the patient to cough and take deep breaths every two hours. This is uncomfortable due to soreness but the patient needs to cough and take deep breaths to keep mucus from collecting in the lungs, which may lead to pneumonia. The patient may have to hug a pillow tightly against his chest while coughing to ease the discomfort.However, if the patient is suffering from shortness of breath after heart valve replacement, it is should be immediately brought to the doctor's notice. Most probably there is something wrong and a corrective surgery will have to be performed to rectify any problems.
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