Aortic Valve Replacement

This webpage will give you information about an aortic valve replacement. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is aortic valve disease?

The aortic valve controls the flow of blood out of the heart (see figure 1). Aortic valve disease is where the valve does not open properly or is narrowed, or does not close properly. If your valve does not open properly or is narrowed, you may get dizzy or breathless or have chest pain. If your valve does not close properly, you can get palpitations and breathlessness.


Aortic Valve Replacement

What are the benefits of surgery?

The main benefits of surgery are to relieve shortness of breath and chest pain and improve energy levels. You should live longer with surgery.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Drug treatments such as diuretics, ACE-inhibitors and digoxin are the main alternatives to surgery.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about two hours.

Your surgeon will make a cut down the front of your chest, through the breastbone. You will be connected to a heart-lung machine, which allows the heart to be still while the surgeon replaces the valve. 

The two main types of replacement valve are mechanical or tissue valves.

What complications can happen?

1 General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Unsightly scarring
  • Blood clots

2 Specific complications

  • Stroke
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • Heart attack
  • Death

How soon will I recover?

After the operation you will be transferred to the cardiac intensive-care unit or high-dependency unit, usually for 24 hours, and then to the ward. You should be able to go home after seven to ten days.

The healthcare team will tell you when you can return to normal activities.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice. 

Most people make a good recovery, with no more breathlessness or chest pain. You may have more energy after you recover.


Aortic valve disease can cause pain, shortness of breath and eventually death. Aortic valve replacement can relieve your pain, improve your energy levels and may help you to live longer.


Author: Mr Edward Black MBBS FRCS (CTh) 

Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © 2011 Nucleus Medical Art. All rights reserved.

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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