McLeod Health Blog

Welcome to Our Blog.

At McLeod Health, we are dedicated to providing useful health and medical information to our community. Take a look at our blog categories and choose those that interest you. Be sure to subscribe to each category of interest and we will send you new blog articles as they are posted.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
Posted on in Heart Health

Heart Valve Replacement – Half a Century of Medical Innovation

Medically reviewed by Dr. Michael Carmichael

Success, A Blend of Skilled Surgeons & Technological Developments. In 2014, a person with a faulty heart valve can have it replaced and expect extraordinarily low operative mortality rates and minimal complications. Today’s positive reality represents decades of research and refined surgical skills. 1960s - MECHANICAL VALVES. The first aortic valve replacement occurred in 1960, using a mechanical valve that was essentially a ball loosely fit inside a ring. It was soon replaced by a valve using a disk that tilted open and closed.  Eventually, a valve was developed with two leaflets. Leaf versions of the mechanical valve can last a long time but the patient must take medication to prevent blood from thickening and clotting the valve opening. 

LATE 1960s – HUMAN-to-HUMAN TRANSPLANT

One popular technique involved taking a donor individual’s valve to replace the patients.  Another technique took the patient’s pulmonary valve to replace their aortic valve; then, replace the pulmonary valve with one made from the patient’s tissue, a doubly complicated approach.

1970s – COW & PIG TISSUE VALVES

In the 1970s, surgeons were experimenting with using valves that were stamped out of the sack surrounding the cow’s heart or using a valve from a pig. New anti calcification treatment makes the cow the tissue valve of choice, lasting twice as long as the pig valve.  Patients with the tissue valves don’t need to take anti-blood clotting drugs.

“About 20 years ago, the majority of valves I implanted were mechanical,” said McLeod Heart Surgeon Dr. Michael Carmichael. “Now, tissue valves are the vast majority I implant, probably by a 20-to-1 ratio. Since I turned 55, I’ve told my patients that – if it were me – I would choose a tissue valve and hope to get 20-30 years out of it.”

What happens if or when a replacement valve wears out?

“I replaced a valve in a 29-year-old racecar driver,” says Dr. Carmichael.  “In 15-20 years, we replaced it again.  And then in time, we did a third replacement.”

21st CENTURY - TAVR 

One of the newest developments is a minimally invasive procedure that inserts a pre-fabricated valve – folded up much like a collapsed umbrella – into the faulty valve opening. Then the insert is opened – pushing the faulty valve out of the way and creating a cleaning opening with a new valve. This procedure is called the Transaortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) or Transaortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)It offers hope for patients who otherwise might not medically be able to undergo surgery

While very promising as a minimally invasive technique, it will take years before the evidence tells us how long TAVI/TAVR valves will last.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Find out more about the Signs & Symptoms  of heart valve disease. 

Learn how Heart Specialists diagnose heart valve issues. 

Find a Cardiologist or Cardiothoracic Surgeon near you. 

Sources include: McLeod Health, National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association Journal, European Heart Journal, Drexel University, Journal of the American College of Cardiology

The information on this site is intended to increase your awareness and understanding of specific health issues and
services at McLeod Health. It should not be used for diagnosis or as a substitute for health care by your physician.
To report technical issues, please contact us. Public Access to Information or To Report a Concern.

©2012 McLeod Health. Download Vendor Code of Conduct | HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices | Patient Bill of Rights
Report a Concern | Visitation | Download McLeod Health Mission & Values