Surgeons have been executing heart valve replacements since the 60s. The surgery involves replacing the diseased or defective valve. Over the years, the procedure has improved significantly on different fronts. Today, the surgery can even be minimally invasive.
There are multiple options for the type of valve that can be used for replacement. Cardiac surgeons can use either a mechanical or a biological valve. Both have their pros and cons. The type of valve can influence your quality of life and recovery. Thus, you should discuss all options with your cardiac surgeon.
To know which is the best valve for heart valve replacement surgery for you, read below
What is an Ideal Replacement Valve?
The most ideal replacement valve should have the following characteristics:
- It should be able to work in sync with the entire circulatory system and must have excellent valve function.
- It should be durable for a long time.
- It should not increase the chances of dangerous blood clots.
Usually, patients are given blood thinning medications to lower the chances of complications like embolism or clot-related stroke. The risk for clots is higher for patients with mechanical valves.
Mechanical VS Biological Valve
Generally, both mechanical and biological valves function very well. However, there are benefits and risks associated with each one.
Traditionally, age is considered the main factor in deciding the type of valve replacement to be used. At present, biological valves are considered for patients above 70 years whereas mechanical valves are advised for people below 50 years of age. For patients who fall between these ages, neither of the two has been found to be clearly beneficial over the other.
Pros: Mechanical valves are highly regarded for their durability. These are prepared from sturdy materials like titanium or carbon and can last for the entire lifetime of a patient. This is the reason why mechanical valves are preferred for younger patients who are expected to live longer.
Cons: Mechanical valves pose an increased risk of blood clots. These clots can lodge in the hinges or valve flaps. Thus, preventing the mechanical valve from working well. This can be a life-threatening situation. Sometimes, the blood clots can even break off and travel via the bloodstream. If it enters the brain then it can even cause a stroke.
Patients with a mechanical valve have to take anti-clotting medicines like warfarin for the rest of their lives. This medication can lead to side effects like bleeding from the nose or gums.
Pros: Biological valves do not require anti-clotting medicines. These are made from flexible or strong animal tissues and can last for upto 20 years. A tissue valve is a better choice for older people as they are more prone to the side effects of anti-clotting drugs like warfarin.
Cons: A biological valve has a tendency to wear out sooner. This can lead to another surgery that can be often dangerous for the patients.
How to Decide which Valve to go for?
There has been extensive yet contradictory research on which type of valve should one go for. However, the final decision should be made after considering several factors like your physical condition, age, and if you have any other diseases. You should carefully discuss these with your cardiac surgeon before settling for one.
A tissue valve is used for:
- Older people, above 70 years
- Patients who are at risk of bleeding and don’t wish to take warfarin
- Patients who need another surgery and cannot take blood-thinning drugs.
- Patients who are planning for children and don’t want to bear the side effects of warfarin on pregnancy
A mechanical valve is used for people who:
- Are younger below 50 years
- Are already taking warfarin
- Are at high risk for valve tissue deteriorating
- Cannot undergo another surgery because it would be too risky for them.
However, every patient is different. Your unique situation can tip the scales one way or the other. You should discuss in-depth the pros and cons of each type of valve and then make a decision accordingly. Check the certifications of your cardiac surgeon and the accreditation of the hospital before going for the valve replacement surgery.
Avail Heart Valve Replacement Surgery Across the World
When it comes to choosing the best type of heart valve for yourself, the more you know, the more satisfied you will be with your treatment. In addition to the obvious advantages, the chosen valve type should allow you to live your life without any compromise. Talk with an experienced cardiac surgeon who understands your perspective and receive the treatment at a good hospital for the best results!