Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Aortic valve replacement

4-minute read

What is an aortic valve replacement?

The aortic valve is one of 4 valves in the heart that work together to keep blood flowing in the right direction. If the aortic valve stops working properly, it may need to be replaced.

Why is an aortic valve replacement performed?

The aortic valve must open fully and close fully with each heartbeat so the heart can pump enough blood around the body.

If either function is affected, the heart must work much harder to try and deliver enough blood to the body and it can become overworked.

Signs the aortic valve is not working properly include being short of breath, tired or having a build-up of fluid in the body.

Valves may be faulty at birth, or become damaged due to illness. The heart valves are assessed by an ultrasound of the heart structure called an echocardiogram (sometimes called an ‘echo’).

How to prepare for an aortic valve replacement

Tests are done to provide information about the heart. They include a blood test, chest x-ray and an electrocardiogram (ECG) to test the electrical properties of the heart.

If you are having these tests, your doctor or hospital staff will give you instructions on how to prepare for the surgery. If you are a smoker, it’s a good idea to quit long before the procedure to decrease the risks.

What happens during the procedure

The standard procedure is done under a general anaesthetic, so you will be completely unconscious.

The surgeon will cut through the breastbone to reach the heart and a machine will take over the working of the heart and lungs during surgery.

The faulty valve will be replaced with a new valve, either made of human or animal tissue (called a biological valve) or of metal (called a mechanical valve). During the surgery you may need a blood transfusion.

Newer techniques involve smaller cuts or no cuts to the chest wall. Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) is done by inserting a balloon catheter into an artery and guiding it to the heart. The balloon is gently inflated to open up the aortic valve. The doctor then inserts the new valve, which inflates to push aside the old valve.

Your doctor will be able to discuss the risks and benefits of each procedure with you.

What to expect after an aortic valve replacement

You will be taken to the intensive care unit for monitoring, then to a ward until you are ready to leave hospital.

Full recovery from aortic valve replacement can take from several weeks to months, during which you may have pain and tiredness.  

You will need to take anti-clotting medication for life if you receive a mechanical valve, or for a few months after receiving a biological valve.

What can go wrong?

Possible risks include:

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • poor healing of the wound
  • changes to the heart rhythm
  • damage to the heart
  • problems with your kidneys or lungs, particularly if you have a pre-existing condition

More information

About aortic valve replacement

Talk to your doctor if you have questions about aortic valve replacement.

About surgical procedures

Visit the healthdirect surgical procedures page to learn more about surgical procedures in general, with information including:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2020

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Heart Valve Disease - St Vincent's Heart Health

Learn more about heart valve disease, the causes, symptoms, possible tests and treatments.

Read more on St Vincent's Hospital Heart Health website

Heart valve surgery | Rheumatic Heart Disease Australia

Short animated video showing how a valve repair and replacement is completed

Read more on RHDAustralia website

After Heart Valve Surgery - St Vincent's Heart Health

Discover how to recover well after heart valve surgery.

Read more on St Vincent's Hospital Heart Health website

Heart Valve Surgery - "Valve Surgery" - St Vincent's Heart Health

Information about heart valve repair and replacement surgery, including how to prepare and what happens during and after the surgery.

Read more on St Vincent's Hospital Heart Health website

About Acute Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is damage to one or more heart valves that remains after an episode of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) is resolved

Read more on RHDAustralia website

Aortic stenosis - Better Health Channel

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Heart murmur - Better Health Channel

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Heart anatomy -

View a picture of the anatomy of the heart, which is made up of 4 compartments: 2 atria and 2 ventricles.

Read more on myDr website

Congenital heart defects -

Congenital heart defects are problems with the structure of the heart that are present from birth. The defects develop during pregnancy. In Australia, as many as one baby in 100 is born with a heart defect.

Read more on myDr website

Mycobacterium chimaera in heater cooler units

Mycobacterium chimaera infection information.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo