Learning About Life With a Tissue Heart Valve

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What is a tissue heart valve?

A heart valve may be replaced when it is damaged or narrowed by disease. Your doctor replaces your valve with a valve made of animal tissue. The new valve controls the normal flow of blood into and out of the heart.

It's important to keep in mind that a replacement valve won't work as well as an undamaged natural valve. So even though your heart works better, it may not recover to completely normal levels. If your heart was already working poorly before your valve was replaced, you may still have heart problems.

Replacement valves wear out over time. A tissue valve lasts about 10 to 18 years. As long as you have the valve, you and your doctor will need to watch for signs that it's wearing out.

Your doctor may give you a blood thinner to prevent blood clots. If you take a blood thinner, be sure you get instructions about how to take your medicine safely. Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems.

Be sure to tell all your doctors and your dentist that you have had a heart valve replaced. This is important, because you may need to take antibiotics before certain procedures to prevent infection.

How can you check for problems with your heart valve?

Even though you have a new valve, you still have a serious heart condition that needs to be watched closely. And because tissue valves usually need to be replaced over time, you and your doctor will need to watch for signs that the new valve is wearing out.

These signs will be similar to those you had before your original valve was replaced. Watch for:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fainting.
  • Chest pain.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.