Types of Heart Valves

Montefiore's valve specialists believe that the choice between a biologic or mechanical heart valve replacement requires patient collaboration and a long-view approach. During this decision process Heart Valve Repair Program surgeons and cardiologists take into account the patient's physical condition, personality and age. Because mechanical valves require the daily use of anticoagulants to prevent clotting, valve specialists will also consider the patient's ability to comply with medication guidelines and discuss a patient's interest in becoming pregnant. Patients and valve specialists will then make a collective decision as to which option is best.

Biologic Heart Valves

Patients at Montefiore have access to all types of biologic heart valves, also called tissue or bioprosthetic valves, including bovine (cow) or porcine (pig). Homograft valves (human tissue obtained after death) are also an option for select patients, especially those with endocarditis. Traditionally, biologic valves were not considered as durable as mechanical valves; however, recent studies have shown that they may last nearly two decades without decline in function when implanted into patients meeting specific eligibility criteria.

Issues to consider with biologic heart valves include:

  • They rarely require lifelong anticoagulant use
  • They have an average life expectancy of up to 17 years, resulting in the need for a second replacement surgery
  • They are well tolerated by the body

Mechanical Heart Valves

Mechanical valves are typically made of plastic, metal or carbon and are designed to perform the functions of the patient's native valve. Montefiore offers patients a full range of mechanical valve options.

Issues to consider with mechanical heart valves include:

  • They require lifelong anticoagulant use
  • They last longer than biologic valves
  • They make a ticking noise that may be heard in the chest