Treatments for heart valve disease

Blood flow illustration

David Taggart, Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery at the University of Oxford, explains why you might have heart valve replacement, what it involves and how long it will last.

Your heart valves make sure blood flows through your heart in the right direction. As you get older, valves can become diseased or damaged, making them very stiff or causing them to leak. This forces your heart to work much harder to pump enough blood to meet your body’s demand for oxygen.

What does it involve?

Mild to moderate valve problems are usually managed with lifestyle changes and medications, but if a valve becomes severely affected or you suffer with symptoms such as light-headedness and tiredness, you may be considered for valve replacement surgery.

The replacement will be a donated tissue valve from a human or an animal (such as a pig or a cow), or a mechanical valve made from carbon fibre. “The main difference is that a tissue valve is prone to general wear and tear, and over time can start to leak and need replacing,” says Professor David Taggart.

How long will it last?

A mechanical valve will almost always last for life, but you must take an anticoagulant such as warfarin to stop blood clots forming around it. Tissue valves should eliminate or alleviate your symptoms for 10 to 15 years.

Professor David Taggart

  • Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery, University of Oxford
  • Specialist in coronary revascularisation, arterial grafts and off-pump surgery
  • Former President of the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery in Great Britain and Ireland
  • Lead for cardiothoracic research in the UK, Royal College of Surgeons of England

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