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Saint Thomas Heart

Valve Surgery

Heart valve surgery is performed to replace or repair one of more of the heart’s four valves that aren’t working properly. Most valve replacements involve the aortic and mitral valves. The aortic valve separates the left ventricle (the heart’s main pumping chamber) and the aorta (the major artery that carries blood to the body from the heart).

Saint Thomas West Hospital and Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital have received from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) the highest possible ratings---three-star ratings---for overall quality regarding two heart procedures: isolated coronary artery bypass surgery or graft (CABG) and isolated aortic valve replacement (AVR). The ratings time period for CABG was July 2015 through June 2016 and the ratings time period for AVR was July 2013 through June 2016.

These high ratings are particularly noteworthy because just 21 of 1024 participants in the STS Adult Cardiac Surgery Database received the highest possible rating for both isolated CABG and isolated AVR. Additionally, three-star ratings were awarded to just 9.55% of the participants for isolated CABG and just 7.48% of the participants for isolated AVR.

“The Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ data is widely recognized as the best measure of heart surgery program quality,” said Dr. Brian Wilcox, Chief Physician Executive, Saint Thomas Heart. “Our 3-star rating confirms that the Saint Thomas Heart program is one of the finest programs in the United States. Patients can know they are cared for by one of the largest, most innovative and highest-quality programs in the country.” Of the 1400 heart surgeries performed by Saint Thomas Heart in the last year, more than 900 of them were CABG and AVR.

“We perform these operations several times every day in both of our cardiac surgical hospitals,” Dr. Wilcox added.

The mitral valve separates the left atrium from the left ventricle. Heart valves are made of thin, strong tissue flaps that open and close as the heart pumps. The valves make sure that blood flows through the heart in the right direction, and they stretch back and forth with every heartbeat.

Multiple new minimally invasive and catheter-based procedures have been developed to expand valve care to those who are at increased risk for standard therapies. Cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons at Saint Thomas Heart work in teams to treat heart defects with methods that are less invasive than traditional open heart surgery.

Saint Thomas Heart offers a multidisciplinary approach to heart care; its collaborative team is comprised of interventional cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, anesthesiologists and cardiac imaging specialists. Through this collaborative team approach, patients with severe heart conditions that were previously inoperable are able to receive customized cutting edge therapies, including minimally invasive robotic surgical procedures.

What are the types of valve problems?

Heart valve problems make the heart work too hard and can lead to heart failure. In some cases, valves:

  • Don’t open enough (stenosis)
  • Don’t let enough blood flow through (also called stenosis)
  • Don’t close properly and let blood leak where it shouldn’t (called incompetence, insufficiency or regurgitation)
  • Prolapse — mitral valve flaps don’t close properly (more common in women)

What causes valve problems?

  • A birth defect that’s not repaired may get worse later in life and cause problems
  • Aging that leads to valves weakening or hardening
  • Diseases that scar or destroy a valve