Heart valve disease affects millions of people worldwide each year. The valves of the heart help to keep blood pumping in the right direction. Valves open and shut in response to the activity of the four chambers of the heart: two atria and two ventricles. Medical conditions involving the heart valves include failing to open or close correctly, flopping back into the heart chamber, being the wrong size or shape, or suffering damage by infection.
You should see your doctor if you feel breathless, dizzy or weak. Palpitations, a strange, fluttery feeling in your heart may also be a sign of heart valve disease. You may have a tight feeling in your chest, especially when you are very active or you go out in the cold air. Swelling in your ankles, feet or abdomen, or rapid weight gain (sometimes as much as two or three pounds in a single day) is another symptom.
There are many simple techniques a surgeon can use to correct a defective heart valve. He may stitch a ring-like device around the valve opening to strengthen it and help it to close tightly. When two flaps have become stuck together, the surgeon will simply snip them apart. Cutting and reshaping a valve may help it fit better and close properly. Heart valve repair may be just a matter of scraping out calcium deposits.
You may need to come in for a pre-assessment visit for blood tests and other diagnostic tests to make sure you are fully fit for the surgery. You will be given exact instructions on how to prepare for surgery; as for many other medical procedures, on the day of the operation you should make sure you have fasted for at least eight hours before the operation and your bladder is empty before you are given any pre-operative medication. Depending on the type of operation performed, you will probably need to stay in the hospital for a few days.
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