Irregular Heart Rhythms and Aortic Valve Replacement
Irregular heart rhythms and aortic valve replacement are often linked. In fact, irregular heart rhythms are a relatively common occurrence during aortic valve replacement; however, most of these irregular heart rhythms are brief and cause no symptoms. An irregular heart rhythm that does create symptoms (include a rapid heart rate or a pounding in the chest) is known as atrial fibrillation. Statistics on irregular heart rhythms and aortic valve replacement indicate that about 5 out of 100 people who undergo aortic valve replacement surgery will experience damage to the fibers carrying electrical signals through the heart.
When discussing the specifics of irregular heart rhythms as a complication of aortic valve replacement, it's important to 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.
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 aortic valve replacement 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 aortic valve replacement surgery. Fortunately, most of these are brief and cause no symptoms.
An irregular heart rhythm that does create symptoms is called atrial fibrillation. 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.