If a diseased heart valve cannot be repaired, your surgeon can replace it with an artificial valve that is either mechanical or bioprosthetic. Discuss with your surgeon the attributes of each and which device best suits your needs.
These are made of durable synthetic materials and can last a lifetime. However, life-long anticoagulation with warfarin is needed to reduce the risk of blood clots. These valves are associated with a slight ticking noise related to valve closure. It is usually only noticeable in a quiet room, and in many patients is not noticeable at all.
Bioprosthetic or tissue valves
These are heart valves taken from animals or humans. The tissue has been treated to reduce the risk of rejection. Bioprosthetic valves have a limited lifespan that is dependant on age and other factors. Warfarin anticoagulation may not be necessary.
THE ROSS PROCEDURE
In certain patients (generally younger than 50 years), the aortic valve can be replaced with the patient’s own pulmonary valve. The pulmonary valve is then replaced with a bioprosthetic valve. The advantage is that lifelong anticoagulation with warfarin is not needed.