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Acute Care Advisor 2016.4 Copyright © 2016 RelayHealth, a division of McKesson Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.

What is aortic valve replacement?

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The heart has four valves that work together to keep blood flowing in the right direction. They are the tricuspid, pulmonic, mitral, and aortic valves. They are made of thin tissue and open and close easily to allow blood to flow into and out of the heart.

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The aortic valve is located between the lower left side of the heart and the aorta (the blood vessel that carries blood to the rest of the body). If you have a problem with your aortic valve, it either may not open all the way or may be unable to close completely. When the aortic valve narrows (called aortic valve stenosis), the valve does not open all the way, so the heart has to work harder to pump blood to the body. When the aortic valve does not close completely between heartbeats, blood can move backward in the heart (called aortic valve regurgitation). Problems with the aortic valve cause your heart to work harder to pump blood with each beat, which may put too much strain on your heart.

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If the problem is severe, you may need to have your aortic valve replaced. Your aortic valve may be replaced with tissue from a cow, pig, or donated human tissue (biological valve), or by man-made materials (mechanical valve). In some cases, the surgeon may use your pulmonic valve to replace your aortic valve, called a Ross or Switch procedure.

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