When heart valve disease progresses to the point that treatment by medicine does not offer relief from symptoms, a physician may recommend surgery to repair or replace the valve.1 If the heart valve cannot be fixed, a decision must be made as to what type of replacement valve should be used. Typically, the choice is between a carbon-based mechanical valve and a tissue valve. The physician and patient will decide the type of valve while taking into account the danger and benefits, the patient’s overall condition, and preference
Tissue Heart Valves
Tissue heart valves are harvested from pig heart valves or from the sac surrounding the heart of a cow. These tissues are treated and neutralized so that the body will not reject them. Some tissue valves are mounted on a frame or stent; while others are used directly.
The primary benefit of tissue valves is that they generally do not necessitate long-term blood thinner therapy. These medications decrease the rate at which blood clots are formed which can cause stroke or embolism while creating an enlarge in the risk of bleeding events. For most tissue valve patients, taking an aspirin a day is sufficient therapy.3 However, approximately one-third of patients with a tissue valve do not benefit from this, because they have a blood thinner requirement for other heart or vascular conditions.
Heart Valve Replacement Surgery – Artificial or Bioprosthetic Heart Valves
When heart valves are severely diseased the treatment is valve replacement surgery with artificial or bioprosthetic heart valves. As things stand there is no medicines that can reverse heart valve disease and so valve replacement or valve repair is required. Artificial heart valves are often known as mechanical heart valves and made from metallic alloys or plastic materials. In bioprosthetic heart valves, the valve tissue is typically from an animal species and mounted on a frame, known as a bioprosthesis.
Mechanical Heart Valves
The most broadly used mechanical valves are made from pyrolytic carbon, which has been used for over 30 years in heart valve design.
The primary advantage of mechanical valves is the likelihood of lasting a patient’s lifetime without the need for another valve operation because the valve has worn out.3, 19 Mechanical valves have excellent blood flow performance3, 7, 13-15 which may benefit patient’s quality of life and ability for exercise.
The main drawback of mechanical valves has been the necessity for lifelong blood thinner therapy, with its accompanying risk of bleeding. With properly managed blood thinner therapy, rates are relatively low for both bleeding and clotting.
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