Heart valve replacement

Learn about the surgical procedure, costs and recovery for heart valve replacement.

What is heart valve replacement?

Heart valve replacement is a surgery that treats heart valve disease by replacing the diseased heart valve with a mechanical valve or one made from cow, pig or human heart tissue (biological tissue valve).1 It is performed in hospital, under general anaesthetic (you’ll be asleep), and is used to treat serious cases.1

Heart valve disease impairs the heart’s function which can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, and other symptoms.1

After surgery, your breathing should be improved and you should have less chest pain, more energy, and a better quality of life.1

Heart valve replacement is performed by a cardiothoracic surgeon.

There are several different heart valve replacement surgeries, with different medical terms such as aortic valve replacement and mitral valve replacement.

A man in need of heart valve replacement experiencing chest pain

Signs you might have heart valve disease

Heart valve disease can cause mild to severe symptoms including:1

  • Abnormal sound when listening with stethoscope (heart murmur).
  • Chest pain.
  • Fainting, dizziness or light-headedness.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Palpitations (very fast fluttering, racing, thumping or a pounding feeling in your chest).
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Swelling of ankles and feet.
  • Tiredness.

Diagnosing heart valve disease

If you think you may have heart valve disease, see a doctor. There are a number of diagnostic tests they can use:1

  • Physical examination, including listening to your heart.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG).
  • Echocardiogram.
  • Chest X-ray.
  • CT scan of your chest.
A doctor diagnosing heart valve replacement
A woman taking medicine as an alternative to heart valve replacement

Alternatives to heart valve replacement

There may be alternatives to heart valve replacement, depending on your condition:1

  • Medicines.
  • Heart valve repair.

Heart valve replacement recovery

Heart valve replacement surgery is an intensive procedure, and full recovery takes several weeks to months.2, 3

  • After surgery, you’ll spend a few days in an intensive care unit (ICU) to be monitored during early recovery.
  • You should be able to go home after 7 to 10 days.
  • Full recovery can take several weeks to months, during which you will slowly return to normal activity.
A smiling woman making a heart symbol with her hands while recovering from heart valve replacement in hospital

Getting a heart valve replacement at a public vs private hospital

It’s important to understand how getting your procedure in a public or private hospital differs.

Public system (Without health insurance)
Private system (With health insurance)

Will I avoid public hospital waiting lists?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I be able to choose my hospital?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I be able to choose my doctor or surgeon?

  • No.
  • Yes.

Will I have out-of-pocket costs?

  • No.
  • Yes.

What is the cost of heart valve replacement?

In a public hospital

In a public hospital, heart valve replacement is covered by Medicare for eligible residents.

Once you are discharged from hospital, you may still need to pay out-of-pocket for things like medicines and health services (like physiotherapy or occupational therapy).

In a private hospital, using health insurance

In a private hospital, private health insurance can cover some costs of heart valve replacement.

You may have an out-of-pocket cost if you use private hospital cover when you get treatment. You can minimise some of these costs by choosing a hospital and specialist that have agreements with your health insurer.

If you have an excess on your cover, you will have to pay for that out of pocket.

What is hospital excess?

What is an out-of-pocket cost?

How to find health cover for heart valve replacement

Minimise your costs

Ask your GP for an open referral

Your GP is the one who’ll most likely refer you to a specialist – but you may want the option to choose your own specialist.

Asking for an open referral can let you:

  • Choose your own specialist.
  • Find a specialist with good availability who can perform treatment at the hospital you prefer.
  • Find a specialist that you trust to perform your surgery.
  • Find a specialist with minimum out-of-pocket expenses for you.

Find a surgeon with minimum out-of-pocket costs

To find cardiothoracic surgeons who have an agreement with HBF, just search for ‘cardiothoracic surgeon’ in our find a provider tool.

  • Look for the “Full Cover” tick mark or “Access Gap Cover” tick mark.
  • These specialists will help minimise your out-of-pocket cost.

Find a Provider

If you’ve already started working with a specialist

If you’ve already got a specialist, ask them these questions:

  • Do you have a Full Cover or No Gap agreement with HBF?
    If they don’t, you may need to consider if their fees work with your budget.
  • What hospital(s) do you operate in?
    You can then check if the hospital has a Full Cover or No Gap agreement with HBF.

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