Valve surgery

Why is it done?

Your heart failure may have been caused by a defective or diseased heart valve. Heart valves direct the one-way flow of blood inside your heart. Valves can either leak or become narrowed, or both. If they don’t work properly this puts extra strain on the heart and can lead to heart failure. This problem can be improved or cured by surgery, but will usually only be done if the anticipated benefits of surgery are likely to outweigh the risks.

What does it involve?

During the operation, you will be connected to a heart-lung machine that supplies blood to the brain and body and the defective valve is removed and replaced.

Your doctor will discuss which type of valve is suitable for you:

  • A mechanical (artificial) valve (carbon, metal or plastic valve)
  • A metal or plastic valve
  • A valve made from human tissue or animal tissue (usually from pigs)

In some circumstances, the valve can be repaired without artificial materials, or the need for open heart surgery. Such procedures like mitral valvuloplasty or transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) are performed from the groin under local anaesthetic.

Following surgery, you may need to take medicine (anticoagulants) to prevent blood clots from forming around your new heart valve. This is normally not required with tissue valves.If any other type of surgery is required at a later date, you will usually be given antibiotics to prevent valve infection.

If any other type of surgery is required at a later date, you will usually be given antibiotics to prevent valve infection.

Questions to ask your doctor:

  • What are the risks associated with this surgery?
  • How long will I be in hospital?
  • How long will I take to recover?
  • What level of physical activity am I allowed to do after surgery?
  • What medicines will I have to take following the surgery?

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ESC Guidelines for Heart Failure

What patients need to know

This guide for patients from the European Society of Cardiology aims to provide an overview of the latest evidence-based recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of heart failure.

In particular, it should help patients to understand the:

  • main types of heart failure
  • medicines used to treat heart failure
  • devices that may be appropriate
  • importance of rehabilitation
  • management by a multidisciplinary team
  • importance of self-care in managing your own condition

Learn more


A series of 9 simple, captivating animations explaining heart failure and its treatment.

These narrated animations explain how a healthy heart works, what happens to it in heart failure and how various treatments work to improve your health.


In this section you can watch, listen or read interviews with other people with heart failure and their caregivers.


and share your own views and experiences with other patients, families and caregivers. is a European Society of Cardiology website

The website was developed under the direction of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). The ESC is a world leader in the discovery and dissemination of best practices in cardiovascular medicine. Our members and decision-makers are healthcare professionals who volunteer their time and expertise to represent professionals in the field of cardiology in Europe and beyond.

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