Balloon Aortic Valvuloplasty

Balloon aortic valvuloplasty is a procedure in which the aortic valve is repaired by widening the narrowed valve to improve blood flow. A valvuloplasty is done with the help of a balloon catheter which is placed in the aortic valve which has narrowed down due to calcium buildup. Balloon aortic valvuloplasty is used as a bridge or treatment option for those patients who do not require major heart surgery. Furthermore, this surgery is done with the help of smaller incisions as compared to standard heart surgery but larger incisions than robotic surgery.

Causes of balloon aortic valvuloplasty

The aortic valve is among the four valves of the heart, between the left ventricle and the aorta, the largest blood vessel in your body. The aortic valve opens and closes in a steady rhythm to circulate oxygen-rich blood into the aorta. However, sometimes the valve might not open and close properly, and because of which the heart muscles have to work harder. Stenosis in simple words is the narrowing of the leaflets or cusps due to thickening or scarring of your valve that lets a small amount of blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta to reach the body.

A few causes for aortic valve stenosis are:

  • Calcium buildup
  • Heart defect from birth
  • Rheumatic fever

Aortic valve stenosis affects both young and adults. People with mild aortic valve stenosis don't usually feel any symptoms. It takes time for the signs to come to notice and even a weakening heart can be overlooked. For patients with serious cases, some of the symptoms that should be noted are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness or chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Heart murmur
  • Heart palpitation (pounding heart)

Balloon aortic valvuloplasty is among the few treatments opted for curing aortic valve stenosis instead of surgeries.

The procedure of balloon aortic valvuloplasty

In this procedure, the doctor inserts a guidewire through a small incision into an artery in the thigh. The catheter makes its way to the aortic valve where a balloon catheter is passed through it. When the tip reaches the valve, the balloon is inflated to push open the stiff valve and stretch the leaflets or cusps. Later, the balloon is deflated after which the catheter and guidewire are removed. The valve is left wide open for the blood to flow freely in the body.

Balloon aortic valvuloplasty is considered best for infants and children. As for adults, there are chances that the valve may narrow again and hinder blood flow.

Preventions:

Aortic valve stenosis cannot be prevented but a few steps can be considered to lessen its chances. Some of them goes as follows:

  • Maintaining good dental hygiene
  • Take care of high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Look forward to a healthy lifestyle

Benefits of balloon aortic valvuloplasty:

  • Shorter recovery time than other surgeries
  • Delay chances of surgeries for a few years
  • Can show results as good as surgical replacement or repair

Procedure of Valve Replacement Surgery

During an Aortic valve replacement surgery, an incision is made by cutting through the sternum. It is also known as median sternotomy. Following the incision being made, the pericardium is opened and subsequently the patient is placed on a cardiopulmonary bypass machine (heart-lung machine). The machine helps in pumping through the heart while the surgeon replaces the heart valve. Once the patient is on bypass, an incision is made in the aorta and a cross clamp is applied. Thereafter the surgeon removes the diseased aortic valve and replace it with the mechanical one. Once the valve is in place and the aorta has been closed, the patient is taken off from the cardiopulmonary bypass machine. Later, Transesophageal echocardiogram is done to confirm whether the new valve is functioning properly or not.

Benefits of Heart Valve Surgery

Damaged heart valves cause a multitude of symptoms such as breathing difficulties, chest pain, edema and heart palpitations. Post Heart Valve surgery, you get rid of all these problems.

Transesophageal Echocardiography (TEE)

TEE is used in determining whether a patient who has the problem of an abnormal heart rhythm is at a high risk for a stroke or not. This process also tells that whether there is any blood clots in the heart.

Stress Echocardiography

The procedure of Stress Echocardiography makes use of exercise or medication for making the heart work harder than when it is resting, helping in obtaining detailed pictures of the heart and its functioning. It looks into the overall heart functioning, the presence of heart diseases, and the effectiveness of the treatment being followed.

Electrophysiology (EP) Study

EP Study is a specialized process that is undertaken by a trained cardiac specialist, who is called the Electrophysiologist. During this process, one or more thin, flexible wires, which are known as catheters, are put into a blood vessel, later guiding into the heart. Every catheter has got two or more electrodes for measuring the electrical signals to heart while they are travelling from one chamber to the other.

This study diagnoses cardiac rhythm abnormality, for the determination of the best treatment, and also to determine the place where therapy should be done.

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