Types of Aortic Valve Replacements
There are two types of aortic valve replacements: a man-made mechanical valve and a tissue valve taken from an animal heart. Both types offer specific advantages and disadvantages. Mechanical valves are made from metal and plastic and may last the rest of the recipient's life. The disadvantage to these types of aortic valve replacements is that the recipient will have to take Coumadin the rest of his or her life to prevent blood clots. Replacement valves that are taken from infection-free animal hearts may not require the recipient to take medication, but they may only last 10 to 15 years.
For someone having an aortic valve replacement, the new aortic valve will be one of two types. These two types of aortic valve replacements are:
- Man-made mechanical valves, made of metal and plastic
- Tissue valves, which are aortic valves that are taken from infection-free animal hearts.
Each type of aortic valve has specific advantages and disadvantages.
If a mechanical aortic valve is chosen to replace your original valve, you will need to take Coumadin® after the aortic valve replacement for the rest of your life. Coumadin helps prevent blood clots from forming on the new aortic valve. With Coumadin, you will also need to have blood tests on a regular basis. This will help your doctor adjust your dose of the Coumadin so that it is appropriate for you.
Taking Coumadin can require lifestyle adjustments such as giving up contact sports, skiing, or even an occupation that requires physical activity. Because Coumadin decreases the ability of the body to clot its blood, it has a risk of causing bleeding in other parts of the body. This usually is related to some trauma such as a fall or accident; however, patients on Coumadin can also bleed without trauma. This bleeding may take the form of a nose bleed, or it may appear in one's stool or urine. This can also be as minimal as easy bruising, but it can be as serious as a stroke. While taking Coumadin approximately 1 patient out of 100 each year may have a stroke or a bleeding complication.
The advantage of a mechanical valve is that it will last on average 20 to 30 years.