New Heart Valve Replacement Technology

There are some exciting things coming down the road in heart valve replacement technology. This first is Edwards “resilia” aortic tissue valve. I have a very similar Edwards valve but there are two advances here. The most important is that the tissue does not calcify as quickly. Calcium build-up is the main reason these replacement valves eventually “go bad” (hopefully after as much as 15-20 years, or longer for this new tissue). The other advance is that the “Vfit” will expand if a valve-in-valve procedure is needed in the future to replace this valve. That minimizes the loss of valve area.

A second area of research is 3D printing of silicon mechanical valves. They are about 10 years away from clinical use. These can be custom fit to the patient.

Note that the article in the link has this statement, which is not totally correct: “Heart surgeons have traditionally used implants that consist either of hard polymers or animal tissue (from cows or pigs) combined with metal frames. To prevent the body rejecting these implants, patients have to take life-long immunosuppressants or anticoagulants, which have significant undesirable side effects”. I’m not aware of the need for immunosuppressants for either type of valves, while anticoagulants are needed for mechanical valves only, not animal tissue valves. The advantage of mechanical valves over tissue valves is longer life, but the disadvantage is the need for the anticoagulants. If that is not necessary for the 3D printed valves, it would be a major advance.

I already discussed the biggest recent advance, which is that the minimally invasive TAVR procedure can now be used for mainstream patients, like I was. I’m approaching the 2 year anniversary of my replacement surgery in a week. It’s tempting to be jealous of the new technology and wish it had been there 2 years ago. My shoulder surgeon put that in perspective for me recently. He saw my scar on my sternum and said “oh, I thought they could come in through the groin for that now”. I said that that was not yet approved for mainstream use 2 years ago, and joked maybe I should have waited. His succinct reply was “you’d be dead”. So a better emotion is gratitude that I am here to be writing this.

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