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Irregular Heartbeats -- Aortic Valve Replacement Risks

Clip Number: 25 of 35
Presentation: Aortic Valve Replacement
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Reviewed By: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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Before we discuss the specifics of this particular complication, you should know a little about the normal process of a heartbeat.
Your heart is only able to beat because it sends electrical signals from an area in your heart called the SA node or the main pacemaker. This is the SA node at work.
In a normal situation, the electrical signals cause the upper parts of the heart to beat together. This pushes blood into the lower parts of the heart. Then, as the electrical signals continue through the heart, the lower chambers contract to push blood out of the heart.
Sometimes, things go wrong in the heart's electrical pathways. After surgery when the heart is recovering, the electrical signals can become disorganized. This creates abnormal heartbeats. The heart may beat too slowly, too rapidly, or just irregularly.
Irregular heart rhythms are a relatively common occurrence during this procedure. Most of these fortunately are very brief and cause no symptoms.
One example that does create symptoms is called atrial fibrillation. Symptoms may include a rapid heart rate or a pounding in your chest. This abnormal rhythm is caused by too many electrical signals in the upper heart chambers or atria. Why this occurs after heart surgery is not known. However, your doctor can treat atrial fibrillation should it happen.
Your damaged valve is in close proximity to some of the fibers carrying electrical signals through your heart. Because the diseased tissue of your valve must be removed and the new valve sewn in place, in about 5 out of 100 patients, these electrical fibers can be damaged during this procedure. The electrical fibers carrying the signals can become blocked, this is called heart block.
Temporary pacing wires can be placed on the surface of your heart, which can bypass the damaged electrical fibers and act as a pacemaker. Most of the time this is temporary and may last only a few days. In about 5 out of 100 patients this heart block is permanent and will require another procedure to place a permanent pacemaker. This is a simple procedure and is usually done very quickly with little discomfort. In rare cases, an abnormal rhythm may lead to loss of life.

Aortic Valve Replacement


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