Patient information & FAQ

Prof Owens is recognised by all the major health insurers and is a BUPA Premier Consultant Partner, which guarantees that all fees will be covered under their BUPA policy.

There are a range of resources available on the internet to help patients understand their conditions and the treatment options available. These include the British Heart Foundation, the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery and the American Heart Assocation . Please use these resources and if you have any questions bring them with you and we will do our best to explain things further. 

There are a few questions that come up regularly - see below. 


What type of valve should I have? 

If your own heart valve cannot be repaired then it can be replaced with either a mechnical (‘metal’) or tissue (‘animal’) valve. There are pros and cons to each, there is currently no ‘perfect’ valve replacement. Mechanical valves actually contain very little metal, they are made of pyrolytic carbon, a substance a bit like graphite. For more information about the mechanical valves I use click here. They usually last indefinitely but the main compromise with mechanical valves is the need for lifelong treatment with warfarin, a blood thinning drug, that has to be taken regularly and requires ongoing monitoring. Large numbers of people around the world have these valves and manage warfarin with no problems.

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Tissue valves are usually made from tissue obtained from pig heart valves or bovine pericardium (strong tissue that surrounds the heart). More information about the tissue valves I use can be found here and here. They have the advantage of not necessarily requiring lifelong warfarin treatment, although some form of blood thinning such as aspirin is usually given, but they have the disadvantage of more limited durablility. In patients in their late sixties and older this is not usually a concern, and there are also circumstances where it is quite acceptable to use them in younger patients. 

All cases are different, everyone has different concerns and preferences so you will be able to discuss valve choice before your surgery. 


Will I have my breastbone divided? How is it joined up again?

The majority of heart surgery is performed through a midline incicison that involves dividing the breastbone (a median sternotomy). However a proportion of procedures, such as aortic valve replacement, can now be performed through smaller incisions. We are currently udertaking research in this area which you may be suitable to particiapte in - we are exploring whether less invasive approaches lead to less blood transfusion and more rapid recovery. 

The breastbone is held together with very strong metal wires at the end of the procedure, in patients where there is any reason for an increased risk of wound problems we use alternative closure systems. Sternal wounds rarely cause problems, if they do other wound care experts are involved as soon as possible to help recovery.


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When can I drive? Can I fly overseas and what about travel insurance?

We recommend not driving for at least 4 weeks after discharge, click here for more specific guidance. 

We will advise you further about returning to work and overseas travel before discharge and again in the outpatient clinic visit after your surgery, but most people are fit to fly within a few weeks of their operation. It is important to check with the airline and your travel insurer first. More information about flying after surgery can be found here. 

Obtaining travel insurance with heart disease can be problematic, the British Heart Foundation provide a lot of helpful information and links here.  

© Andrew Owens 2017