Newsletter Sign-up

Subscribe for up-to-date medical providers, medical tourism articles, news, and medical promotion.

Weight Loss Surgery is a Snip in Costa Rica

In the US a gastric bypass costs around $30,000, but travel to sunny Costa Rica and the same procedure costs around $12,000!

Medical Tourism Articles

Heart Valve Surgery: How is it Performed?

17 March 2015

The heart has four valves which are responsible for the flow of the blood through it in the right direction. Heart valve disease is characterized by the improper functioning of the heart valves. This can be either because the valves do not open completely, or may have trouble closing, which can in turn affect the regular flow of blood in the heart chambers. A heart valve surgery is performed to treat this condition and restore the blood circulation in the heart to its optimal functionality. During the surgery, the heart valves are either replaced or repaired depending on the condition of the patient.

A cardiac valve replacement surgery in the US costs nearly $170,000, while the same procedure costs $30,000 in Costa Rica and goes at even lower rates approximating $18,000 in Colombia. Due to this, many cardiac patients are beginning to consider traveling to cost-friendly locations like Thailand, India, Columbia, Costa Rica and Turkey for their valve replacement surgeries.

When is it performed?

A heart valve surgery may be performed in cases where:

    • The cardiac valve does not completely close causing a backwards leakage of blood referred to as regurgitation.
    • The cardiac valve does not completely open, limiting the blood flow, referred to as stenosis.
    • Cardiac defects lead to major symptoms like short breath, chest pain, heart failure or fainting spells.
    • Damage is caused to the cardiac valve as a result of infection or endocarditis.
    • Problems are caused with a newly installed cardiac valve with regards to the functionality, infection, bleeding or blood clots.

Medical tests reveal that some changes in the cardiac valve have begun to affect the functionality of the heart.

How is it performed?

The heart has four valves - aortic, mitral, tricuspid and pulmonic valves. Typically, during a heart valve surgery, the aortic valve is replaced, or the mitral valve is repaired. In very rare cases is it that the pulmonic or tricuspid valves are taken up for consideration for the purpose of replacement.

The patient is administered general anesthesia before the heart valve surgery. During an open heart surgery, a large incision is made in the breastbone so that the surgeon has access to the aorta and the heart. A bypass pump or a heart-lung bypass machine is used to perform the heart's tasks of removing carbon dioxide and supplying oxygen as the heart's functionality is stopped during the surgery. In a minimally invasive surgery, smaller cuts are made or a catheter is inserted in the skin. A robot-assisted surgery or a percutaneous surgery may be carried out.

The repair of the heart valve can be done by means of:

    • Valve repair: During this procedure the surgeon carefully trims, reshapes and build the valve's leaflets (valve flaps that close/open). This technique is best suited for the repair of tricuspid and mitral valves. Usually, the repair surgery is not carried out on the aortic valve.

    • Ring annuloplasty: The valve's ring-like portion is repaired by sewing in a tissue, plastic or cloth that resembles a ring.

    • Decalcification: The surgeon removes calcium deposits that may be present on the valve leaflets so they open and close flexibly.

    • Commissurotomy: The surgeon separates fused valve leaflets to make for a wider valve opening and easy blood flow.

In cases where the valve is damaged beyond repair it is replaced with a new one through a valve replacement surgery. Artificial valves can last for 8 to 20 years, on an average. These valves can be of three types:

    • Mechanical valves - These valves are fabricated using man-made materials, and require the patient to use anticoagulants to prevent the formation of blood clots.

    • Biological valves - These valves are fabricated using biological tissues and usually do not require for the use of anticoagulants. While they were previously not seen to be very durable, they can last to nearly 10 years without requiring any replacement these days.

    • Homograft valves - These valves are suited for the replacement of aortic valves which have been infected or diseased. They do not require blood thinners just as in the case of biological valves, but have the drawback of limited availability.

Featured Articles

Popular Articles

View All Articles