Our expert says:
You are very young to have Aortic Regurgitation (AR) : has your doctor given you any idea about what has caused it? What is the degree of regurgitation (the amount of leakage?) Have you had Rheumatic fever in childhood? Are you very tall and skinny? What is your overall heart function like? Do you have high blood pressure?
The answers to these questions may significantly affect how soon you need surgery. In general, aortic valves are replaced, as they cannot really be repaired (there are a few RARE exceptions). Valve replacement surgery is a commonly done operation, with a good results. Surgery involves the use of a heart-lung machine to take over the function of the heart and lungs, so that the heart can be stopped to give the surgeon a still, bloodless field in which to work. This allows him to work very quickly and safely. The damaged valve is removed and a replacement is stitched into its place. For a young person like you, a special prosthetic valve made of pyrolytic carbon would be chosen – this type of valve has been known to last in perfect working order for 20 years already. After this time, (or even longer if this valve maintains its good track record) a repeat operation can be done, if necessary, to insert another new valve. One disadvantage of this type of valve is that you will have to take blood-thinning medication for the rest of your life. However, that may be a small price to pay.
If you have AR due to an underlying disorder such as mucoid degeneration or Marfan’s syndrome, then the surgery may be different, as you may need surgery to the aorta itself in addition to your valve replacement.
The timing of surgery is important : if it is delayed too long, you may develop heart strain, and then not do very well after you eventually do have surgery. The best idea is to have your cardiologist confer with a surgeon, to decide on the best time for surgery. Be aware of your exercise limits, shortness of breath, tiredness etc., and report any such symptoms to your cardiologist, as they will help him assess how soon you need surgery.
However, the most important thing for you to know for now, is that you do have a leaking valve. Because of this IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT YOU ALWAYS HAVE THE CORRECT ANTIBIOTIC TREATMENT BEFORE, BEFORE, BEFORE YOU UNDERGO ANY PROCEDURE WHATSOEVER, INCLUDING MINOR SURGERY, DENTAL WORK OF ANY KIND ( FILLINGS TOO) AND ANY VISITS TO THE DENTAL HYGIENIST. The reason for this is to prevent the development of Infective Endocarditis, a potentially fatal infection which affects damaged valves.
The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal
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