Valve replacement surgery is conducted to replace the damaged or diseased cardiac valve. During a typical heart valve replacement, the damaged or diseased valve is replaced with a biological or synthetic valve, choice of which depends on the condition of the patient.
There are four types of cardiac valves – aortic, mitral, tricuspid, and pulmonic. Any of these valves may get diseased or damaged during a person’s lifetime. However, heart valve replacement is most commonly performed on diseased or damaged aortic valve.
On the other hand, mitral valves are the most common valves to be repaired. Pulmonic and tricuspid valves are rarely replaced or repaired.
A cardiac valve may get damaged or diseased because of a number of reasons. Narrowing of the valve (stenosis) or leakage of the valve (regurgitation) are the two most common reasons why an individual may need a valve replacement surgery.
Heart valve replacement in India is a fairly common procedure performed across all major multispecialty hospitals. India is globally renowned for its quality of cardiac care services availed by some of the most experienced cardiac surgeons in the world.
This article talks about everything you need to know about heart valve replacement in India. In addition, it explores the biggest reasons why heart valve replacement in India is so popular and what benefits do patients derive by choosing to undergo valve replacement surgery in this country over any other medical tourism hotspot.
What is Aortic Valve Disease?
Aortic valve stenosis is one of the leading reasons why a patient may even need a heart valve replacement in his or her life. Aortic valve stenosis is characterized by narrowing of the valve, which may restrict the blood flow from one chamber of the heart to the other.
It is a common aortic valve disease, which may develop in a person because of a number of reasons. Aortic insufficiency or regurgitation is another type aortic valve disease. It is characterized by a leakage in the aortic valve, which makes the blood flow in the reverse direction.
Apart from being a common condition, aortic valve stenosis is also a serious cardiac disorder. Valve narrowing because of the blockage prevents the blood from flowing properly from the heart to the aorta, the main artery in the body that supplies blood to all the organs.
Because of the reduced flow of blood due to valve narrowing, the heart has to pump faster and harder to compensate for the deficit in oxygen supply to other parts of the body. This may overstress the cardiac muscles over a period of time, leading to an increased risk of other heart diseases that may prove fatal.
Severe cases of aortic valve disease are best treated with the help of aortic valve replacement or AVR. Depending on the condition of the patient, the surgeon may just recommend aortic valve repair. During valve repair, the original valve is not replaced with a prosthetic valve, but it is repaired to function better.
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What are the Symptoms of Aortic Valve Disease?
Depending on the severity of damage to the aortic valve, a patient may experience mild to severe symptoms. Typically, the signs and symptoms of aortic valve disease only appear when the damage is severe, which also warrants a need for AVR/ Aortic Valve Replacement.
Some patients with aortic valve stenosis may not experience any symptoms at all. The others, however, may develop a few symptoms. The following are some of the most common symptoms of aortic valve disease:
Heart palpitations (fluttering and rapid heartbeat)
Dizziness, especially when physically active
Tightness in the chest
Chest pain, also known as angina
Abnormal heart sounds or heart murmurs (detected by the doctor on routine check-up)
Shortness of breath when physically active or inactive
Low weight gain (applicable for children)
Poor appetite (applicable for children)
Untreated aortic valve stenosis may cause heart failure. Shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue, and swelling in feet and ankles are some of the classic symptoms of heart failure.
What causes Valve Damage?
There are a number of factors that may alter the normal and original flexibility and functioning of the heart valves, leading to a gradual decline in its functioning. Some of the leading reasons that may cause valve narrowing and leakage among other valve-related disorders include the following:
Atherosclerosis or plaque build-up in the arteries
Untreated Streptococcus throat infection that leads to rheumatic fever
Damage to the heart tissue due to heart attack
Infective endocarditis or infection of the heart surface that spreads to valves
Autoimmune disorders such as lupus
Radiation therapy of the chest
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What could possibly happen?
While minor problems related to the heart valve do not need any surgical treatment, the mild ones can be treated with the help of heart valve repair surgery. However, severe damage to the heart valve must be treated with the help of valve replacement surgery.
Untreated aortic valve disease or for that matter, any other type of heart valve disease may lead to serious complications. Some of these include the following:
Cardiac Arrest: This health hazard may prove fatal in some patients. In this condition, the heart stops beating and pumping blood all of a sudden. It claims the life of the patient is he or she is not revived within a few minutes.
Heart Failure: Heart failure may occur, indicating that the heart is no longer capable of pumping blood effectively.
Blood Clots: Blood clots may form as a result of untreated heart valve disease. The blood clot may dislodge from its location and block the flow of blood. In may damage the tissues and n some cases even claim the life of the patient.
Stroke: A blood clot may block the artery that supplies blood to the tissue of the brain. This may lead to severe brain damage or even death.
Heart Valve Replacement Procedure
Heart valve replacement in India is carried out under the influence of general anaesthesia. The patient is administered general anaesthesia a few hours before the surgery. This is done to put the patient in deep sleep so that he or she doesn’t experience any discomfort.
Since valve replacement surgery is a type of an open heart surgery, the doctor makes a long incision in the chest to access the heart. The incision is usually at least 25 centimetres long. However, in some cases, several smaller incisions could be made. These are usually made when minimally invasive surgery is preferred over open heart surgery.
Heart valve replacement in India is performed on a non-beating heart. Therefore, prior to removing the diseased valve, the surgeon connects the heart to a heart-lung bypass machine. It is an artificial set up that supports the body with respect to its oxygen needs by taking over the function of the normal heart.
Next, the surgeon removes the damaged or diseased valve and replaces it with a prosthetic valve. Depending on the needs of the patient, the following two types of valves could be used to replace the damaged valve:
Mechanical: These valves are made from artificial or man-made materials such as steel, ceramic, or titanium. These valves have a longer life. But the patient is required to take blood-thinning medications for the rest of his or her life.
Biological: These valves are made up of tissues derived from humans or animals. These typically last for a period of 15 years and the patient is not required to take anticoagulants for the rest of their lives.
After the diseased valve is replaced with a new one, the heart-lung bypass machine is removed and the normal functioning of the heart is restored. The incisions made in the chest are closed and the patient is transferred to the recovery room.
Balloon Aortic Valvuloplasty is a surgical alternative to heart valve replacement in case of aortic valve stenosis. However, this procedure is only conducted in children and young adults. Older adults are not treated with balloon aortic valvuloplasty as they may develop stenosis again after a few months of the procedure.
During Balloon Aortic Valvuloplasty, a thin catheter is inserted through an artery in the leg to reach the heart. Once there, pressure is applied to inflate a balloon attached to the end of the catheter tube. This balloon is left there as is and it helps keep the valve open.
Recovery after heart valve replacement surgery
A majority of people are able to live a healthy life following valve replacement surgery. The success rate of heart valve replacement in India is especially high as compared to other countries in the world and this clearly indicates how successfully a patient is able to recover after the surgery.
The patient is usually advised to take a few medications after the surgery for a few weeks. The duration of the medications could be reduced or lifted altogether, depending on the condition and recovery of the patient.
The patient must visit the doctor as per the advised scheduled for follow-up. During the follow-up visit, the doctor may order a few tests to check for the healing of the tissue and observe the functioning of the new valve.
The best heart hospitals in India ensure a speedy recovery by assisting patients to return back to their normal routine as soon as possible. Additionally, the best heart hospitals in India also have state-of-the-art rehabilitation facilities that help patients move on with their lives in no time. Special support is available around the clock for the cardiac patients, which makes them feel guided and loved in a special way.
What makes India best destination for heart valve replacement?
Each year, the best doctors for heart valve replacement surgery in India treat thousands of patients with aortic valve stenosis from within the country and abroad. As a result, the country is globally renowned for its brigade of cardiac specialists and surgeons.
India has secured the number one position in the list of countries with the best cardiac care. This is partly because of around the clock availability of the best medical advice from some of the most experienced cardiac specialists.
The low heart valve replacement surgery cost in India is actually one of the biggest reasons why hundreds of people travel from abroad for it. The following table illustrates the cost of heart valve replacement surgery in India and abroad:
Apart from this following are some of the reasons that make India the number one destination for heart valve replacement:
Low heart valve replacement surgery cost in India
No waiting time even at the best hospitals for heart replacement in India
Affordable cost of living
State-of-the-art diagnostic, treatment, and rehabilitation facilities
End-to-end patient assistance
Immense safety and security at the hospitals
Extremely high success rates of heart valve replacement surgery in India
Availability of the latest cardiac treatment technology and sophisticated catheterization labs
Special packages for medical tourists
English-speaking medical and paramedical staff at the hospitals
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Valve replacement surgery is a common, yet complex medical procedure conducted to replace the diseased cardiac valve with a new mechanical or biological valve. If left untreated, the diseased valve may lead to adverse outcomes such as heart failure, cardiac arrest, stroke, and blood clots.
Heart replacement surgery cost in India is less than two-thirds of what it costs in the Western countries and even less than what it costs in other medical tourist hotspots such as Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and the UAE. This is the primary reason why patients from abroad prefer to undergo this surgery in India.
There are several other benefits of undergoing heart valve replacement surgery in India. These include the availability of the best surgeons, around the clock assistance, the use of best technology and higher success rates.