The South Carolina Heart Valve Center

Partial Sternotomy Aortic Valve Replacement

Aortic valve replacement surgery is for the treatment of narrowing (stenosis) or leakage (regurgitation) of the aortic valve. A partial sternotomy approach is a less invasive way for the surgeon to access the aortic valve for replacement, compared to the traditional open surgery.  Instead of a full length sternal incision, the surgeon makes a 3- to 4- inch incision starting at the top of the breastbone. This technique helps reduce the patient’s post-operative pain and improves healing time.

During the surgery, the patient’s aortic valve is replaced with either a mechanical valve or a biological valve. Biological valves are made of tissue from a human cadaver donor, pig (porcine) valve tissue, or cow (bovine) valve tissue. Your surgeon will discuss the benefits and risks of each before working with you to choose the type of valve that’s best for you.

Mechanical valves are created from man-made materials, such as carbon, and are very durable. Because there is a tendency for blood to clot on mechanical valves, patients with mechanical valve replacements must take anticoagulant medication (sometimes called "blood thinners") for the rest of their lives. This medication prevents blood clots from forming on or around the valve.

Tissue valves perform extremely well, and don’t require the patient to take anticoagulants. Tissue valves are durable, but since they typically last from 15 to 20 years, some patients need to have additional valve replacement procedures later in life.

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