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Long-lasting heart valve replacement
The Ross procedure replaces a damaged aortic valve in your heart with your own pulmonary valve.
The replaced valve does not require blood-thinning medications, and in young and middle-aged adult patients leads to superior long-term outcomes compared to the currently available mechanical and biologic replacement valves.
When you get the Ross procedure, you can return to a normal active lifestyle without restrictions and pursue sports and hobbies without limitations and concerns imposed by valve related medications. Teens and adults between the ages of 18 and 50 benefit the most from this treatment.
What is the Ross procedure?
Your aortic valve sits between the left ventricle of your heart and the aorta. The aorta carries blood from the heart to the rest of your body. When the left ventricle squeezes, it pumps blood through the aortic valve. A healthy aortic valve snaps tightly shut as the left ventricle fills with blood.
Although most patients have three flaps in their aortic valves, about 5% of patients have only two — that is called a bicuspid aortic valve and leads to early wear and tear and damage. Other reasons can lead to damage even in three-flap aortic valves as well. A damaged aortic valve can leak blood. It can also become stiff or not close all the way, putting a lot of stress on your heart.
Your pulmonary valve sits between your heart’s right ventricle and pulmonary artery. It helps with the effective pumping of blood from your heart into your lungs. The pulmonary valve has three flaps and similar configuration with the aortic valve, and has many characteristics that make it an ideal replacement for a damaged aortic valve.
During a Ross procedure, your surgeon:
Removes your damaged aortic valve
Detaches your pulmonary valve and places it where the aortic valve sits
Transplants a donated human pulmonary valve to replace your pulmonary valve
Who is it for?
The Ross procedure works well for children and teens who need a new aortic valve due to narrowing or leaking. Artificial valve options are limited for younger patients.
Patients younger than 50 who want to avoid taking blood thinners and want to pursue an active lifestyle without limitations are also good candidates for this treatment.
Is the procedure right for you?
If you or your child need an aortic valve replacement, your care team will discuss your treatment options. Your doctor will consider your age and the health of your pulmonary valve before deciding if the Ross procedure is the best option for you.
What happens during the Ross procedure
You go to the hospital the morning of your surgery. The Ross procedure is open-heart surgery. A patient is generally in the operating room 8-12 hours.
Here’s what to expect:
You go to sleep with general anesthesia
Your blood circulates through a machine so that your heart can be stopped for the procedure
The surgeon makes small cuts in your heart to reach the valves
Your surgeon checks the pulmonary valve to make sure it is healthy
The surgeon removes your damaged aortic valve
Your surgeon removes the pulmonary valve and places it where the aortic valve sits
The surgeon inserts a donor pulmonary valve to replace your pulmonary valve
You slowly come off the heart pump machine as your heart begins working again
Your care team tests each valve to make sure they work properly
You go to the ICU for recovery
The breathing tube is removed after 4-5 hours, once you can breathe again on your own
You spend 1-2 weeks in the hospital before you can go home.
Your recovery after valve replacement
You feel stronger every day after your surgery. It takes about 12 weeks for your breastbone to heal. As you recover you should:
Attend all of your follow-up appointments
Take medications as prescribed
Be as active as you can while following the precautions taught to you in the hospital
Walk every day
Take your blood pressure as directed
How the Ross procedure restores your health
You gain many health benefits from the Ross procedure, including:
Excellent blood flow at rest and during exercise
Less likely to require long-term, blood-thinning medicines
Normal life expectancy
Improved quality of life
Low risk of blood clots or infection
In pediatric patients who get a Ross procedure, the child’s pulmonary valve continues to grow normally in the aortic valve position.
A donated pulmonary valve performs well in children and adults for up to two decades and often can be replaced with a minimally invasive catheter-based procedure without need for further open-heart surgery.
Meet our team
An expert team by your side
The Congenital Heart Program at UW Health includes experts in heart surgery and is considered a specialized referral center for the Ross procedure.
We provide valve replacement surgery at the American Family Children’s Hospital, and adult patients older than 21 years of age recover at University Hospital in Madison.
At UW Health, we provide a full range of services for conditions affecting your heart and circulatory system. Here, you’ll find expert preventive care, advanced diagnostic tests and innovative treatments.