Anesthesia for Heart Valve Surgery

This information is useful for children, adults, and older adults
Why Yale Medicine?
  • Yale Medicine Cardiac Anesthesiology is a national leader in clinical care.
  • Our highly skilled cardiac anesthesiologists closely monitor patients during surgery.
  • We deliver cardiac anesthesiology services to over 1,250 patients annually.

If your heart valve requires surgical repair, a cardiac anesthesiologist will be an essential member of the operating room team.

Cardiac anesthesiologists play an important role during surgery when the aortic valve needs to be repaired or replaced. The aortic valve is a one-way valve that connects the heart’s left ventricle to the aorta—the large artery that carries blood from the heart and permits blood flow to the whole body. 

Disease and damage can prevent the valve from doing its job either by making it too narrow (aortic stenosis) or by allowing blood to flow in both directions—a condition called a "leaky" valve or aortic insufficiency. The treatment is either to use surgery to repair the valve or, more commonly, to replace it. 

Yale Medicine has the expertise and up-to-date facilities to provide you with the highest standard of diagnosis and care if your heart valve needs attention.

In addition to anesthetizing a patient throughout surgery, anesthesiologists’ responsibilities include assessing a patient’s risk factors before and during the operation.

Many cardiac surgery patients have secondary or underlying conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, congestive heart failure or kidney problems. The anesthesiologist takes these conditions into account while selecting the anesthetic technique that will be safest for each patient. 

During the surgery, the anesthesiologist closely monitors the function of the heart and also conducts frequent laboratory tests to ensure that all organs are receiving adequate oxygen. There also are special medications available in case the patient needs to be resuscitated quickly, along with blood products to be used in the event of bleeding issues. 

“The medical management—not just for the heart but for all the organs—becomes the responsibility of the anesthesiologist,” says Manuel Lopes Fontes, MD, division chief for cardiac anesthesiology at Yale Medicine and professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at Yale School of Medicine. 

Clinical Trials

New treatments for many conditions are tested in clinical trials, which ultimately bring lifesaving new drugs and devices to the patients who need them most. By participating in a clinical trial, you may get access to the most advanced treatments for your condition, and help determine their benefits for future patients.