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Pig Heart Valve Replacement Longevity – How Long Do They Last?

Posted by Adam Pick on March 24th, 2008

As a follow-up to my post about pig valve transplants, I received a specific question, “Do you know exactly how long a pig valve might last in the human heart?”

It’s a good question for patients to consider as they determine which is the best valve type for them – biological (pig valve, cow valve) or mechanical.

Pig Valve Replacement Manufactured By Edwards Lifesciences
Pig Heart Valve (Source: Edwards Lifesciences)

According to Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld, “Pig heart valves do not last as long as mechanical valves and for that reason are not usually implanted in patients much younger than 60 years.”

Dr. Rosenfeld continues, “Although recent reports from The Cleveland Clinic (whose surgeons have a great deal of experience replacing heart valves) suggest that the newer biological valves often last 17 years or longer, they frequently must be replaced after 15 years. So, except in unusual circumstances, younger patients still are given a mechanical valve.”

I hope that helps explain more about how long pig heart valves last in the human heart.

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick A dad, a husband and a patient, Adam Pick founded this website in 2006 to educate you about heart valve surgery from diagnosis to recovery.
You can get the latest updates about heart valve surgery from Adam at his Facebook, and Twitter pages. Click here to email him.

 


Cheryl Boney says on March 25th, 2008 at 11:02 pm

I really debated about whether I wanted to read the answer to the question of how long a pig valve lasts. I received mine Nov. 16th, 2 months shy of my 62nd birthday. I have always known if I was fortunate to enjoy the longevity that seems to be part of my family on both sides then the chances were very good I would need another replacement in the future. I am TRULY hoping for more than 15 years but know this valve may need to be replaced again someday. I read the answer so now I have to tame my worry wart streak and enjoy the good years instead of going on an “oh no” countdown.

 


mercy says on March 26th, 2008 at 11:05 pm

Dear Cheryl B:
Our son recently had double valve replacement at age 37 (you can read about it in recent posts, John Turan). The very first time anyone talked to us about surgery regarding his bicuspid aortic valve, he was 17 and it was at the Mayo Clinic. They spoke about mechanical valves. It wasn’t necessary that the valve be replaced then, but I will never forget how our son wanted to know why they couldn’t do it “right now” so he could “get on” with his busy, sporty life. He was told that every year new advances are made in medicine, some that may already be in the process of testing, and how he had his young age as an advantage, since new valves may be developed as well as new ways of replacing them. No one mentioned the Ross Procedure he finally underwent at 37, and I am not sure if it had even been developed yet.

“That said”, (to quote Adam Pick), think about this every day: Regardless of your age, some new procedure or valve may be developed or improved by the time you need a new valve again, if you should even need it, and then go on and enjoy the rest of your day!

Blessings, Mercy, mother of John.

 


sarah says on March 8th, 2009 at 12:29 pm

i am 23 years old. i was born with Pulmonary artresita with an intact vacular septem. I had many surgeries but when i was 18 they implanted a “pig valve” where my pulmanary valve was. I am 23 and everything is fine. except i have put on some weight since my surgery.

sarah

 


John says on March 22nd, 2009 at 5:57 pm

I had a pig valve put in to replace my aortic valve in 1990
it is now way past its used by date but I have been told by the doctors I am in an unfortunate situation seeing I am in the public system no private health insurance this valve has been leaking for around 12 years
does anyone know how to fix our public health system?
I have been sent to have it replaced twice now but as soon as the private health question arises I am given a short shiftand sent home(I am 76 am I to old to save )lol

 


charlie c. says on May 19th, 2009 at 2:35 am

yes, i came across this while searching for anwsers concerning my own health, primarily my aortic pig valve. and to say the least i was shocked to read that a pig valve was rarely used on people under the age of 60. i had just turned 28 when i was informed that the medication was no longer working for my bi-cuspid aortic valve and was told that at my age, the pig valve was the best option for me BECAUSE of my age and the fact that i would still be young enough for the pig valve to be replaced by a mechanical valve. but they also told me that after the surgery i would be healthier then ever before. since then i have had endocarditious twice, a partial pericardectomy and 2 strokes. no to mention the fact that the big perc of the pig valve was no coumidin, and guess what, ill be on coumidin for the rest of my life. plus at some point in time after the valve replacement i developed HIT(heprin induced thrombosis) which means that when given heprin or any heprin agent, i develop blood clots instead of it thinning my blood out. all of this and i am only 33 now! any info that anyone can help me with would be greatly appreciated. my email is c_capien@yahoo.com my best wishes go out to you and to anyone else who has either went thru/is going thru or loves someone who is.

 


Lee D. says on June 29th, 2009 at 11:48 am

I am 45 years old and have a 28 year pig valve in my tricuspid valve. I was 17 when this valve was placed and was told it would last hopefully 5 years. Since then I have married, had a child, watched him graduate from college and get married. We have a new grandson. I am active in hiking, weight lifiting, biking, kayaking, swimming and scuba diving. All of this would not have been possible without the pig valve and not having to take blood thinners..
I am an anomily of sorts being that I have a tricuspid valve which was replaced due to endocartitis from another surgery. I do not have heart disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol issues or any other complications which normally contribute to heart valve replacement. Simply an infection from central line.
I am just this summer experiencing a decline in the valve, I noticed a slow onset of excercise induced fatigue. All my test results came back perfectly healthy. I just had an echo-stress test which shows increased pressure under stress due to some “hardening” of the valve. The flaps are getting stiffer due to age. I have scheduled a replacement, another pig valve, for this fall since I do not want to wait until it effects my overall quality of life.
With each passing year, I have wondered how long it would last. I finally had settled on, let’s try to make it 30 years. I could if I wanted to slow down, but why would I want to do that! I hope to have the next one 30 years or more.
Each year has been a blessing, and each coming year brings hope of newer procedures and longer placement times.
God bless everyone and keep thinking positive.

 


Adam Pick says on June 29th, 2009 at 11:57 am

Lee,

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your pig valve story with us.

I’m glad to hear you are such an anomaly!!! :)

Incredible that your pig valve has lasted almost 30 years.

Please keep us updated on your upcoming heart valve replacement.

Keep on tickin’ and oinkin’!

Adam

 


Laura says on July 3rd, 2009 at 8:58 pm

I was born in 1965 and have tetrology of fallot. I was among the first to receive Dr. Blalock’s shunts. And I was 14 years old in 1977 when I had a pig valve replacement of my pulmonary valve. I am a lucky person. I have had this valve for 32 years. I recently named the pig who was the donor of this life-giving gift Lazarus. My wonderful doctor tells me that the valve is aging, narrowing, etc. And that he rates the valve as 7 on a scale of 0 to 10 toward surgical replacement. I will likely need a replacement surgery in the next several to 15 years, he says. I hope not, as I am very partial to Lazarus. I am grateful for his or her gift to me.

 


janene says on October 26th, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Lee… how did your surgery go?? i am also a tricuspid replacement person… i was 34 when i had mine…have epstein anomaly that they didnt find until then… they did an ASD repair when i was 14 in ’83 but they didnt know what epstein was at that time… so far so good… but am also hoping that mine will last as long as yours!!! :D… i am 41 so i have a ways to go..

 


Ron Guidry says on December 2nd, 2009 at 9:44 pm

I have had my pig valve for about 5 years (Aortic). My only problem is I am very easily fatigued. I have had every type of test known to man including treadmill
and EKG etc. I have passed every thing with flying colors. I am 68 years old.

 


Sara says on April 5th, 2010 at 1:46 am

I am also a tetralogy of fallot patient. I had my pulmonary valve replaced with a pig valve exactly 16 years ago today. At the time, they told me the pig valve was the best option because my body was still growing (I was 16) and the tissue valve would grow with me. I was told it would need to be replaced in 10-14 years. I also, unfortunatly, have no access to health insurance that is affordable to me, so I don’t see my cardiologist as often as I should. I know the valve has weakened quite a bit, and is leaking, however, on my last visit, the doctor told me that it wasn’t “panic time” yet, and they wanted to put the surgery off as long as possible so that I wasn’t having to go through as many replacement surgeries.

 


Brook says on November 29th, 2010 at 1:58 pm

I really enjoy this page and would love more information. I am currently 44. I was admitted to the hospital on Jan 1st of 2008. I did not know my problem was my heart and the wonderful people at Emory University in Atlanta took care of me. I received my pig valve in the Aortic after reviewing the information with the Cardiothoracic Sugreon who told me I could have a mechanical heart or a pig valve. I chose the pig valve because I did not want to live on Cummadin the rest of my life. I was also afraid of mechanical failure. I have now been nearly 3 years with my new valve. They also replaced the Aortic Arch with synthetic tubing since my valve was very large and the arch had balloned near rupture. I would love to find some video of such a surgery and information on How will I know it is time for a new valve.
Some people I have met have only lasted 5 years with their valve and others 15. To hear that people have lived 30+ years is awesome news to me. I am currently only taking Hydralazine and Coreg on a regular basis along with Lasik and Potassium if and when I have abnormal water weight gain. After coming home from being in the hospital for over 1 month, my chest came open from a bad sneeze where I could not reach my pillow in time. I had to be flown back to the hospital. They put me back together with a few titanium plates on my sternum that will now be there for life. I had to stay an additional 6 weeks in the hospital and then come home with 6 weeks of IV antibiotics. What a boring three months of sitting in a chair all day other than walking occasionally. Since then I have gone on 3 different backpacking trips with my brother – each were 25 miles round trip. God is awesome !!!

 


charlene says on September 13th, 2011 at 9:31 pm

my name is charlene my husband is going to under go a pig valve replacement on friday i understand about how long they last and all the complications that can arise and all the good stuff too he can live longer but what i dont understand is why on earth his cardioligest the one doing the surgery would tell us that most people have a 1 to 2 % chance of not surviving the operation and you sir have a 15 % chance of not surviving it why would he tell his patient that and not take me in another room or something to tell me this he is just working my husband up and making things worse . i tell him every day he will be fine and come home soon he has diabities had it since he has been 17 he also has high blood pressure a bad back and a pace maker defibulater for arythmia of the heart can someone please just reasure me things will really work out please !!!

 


Brook C. Braswell says on September 16th, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I had the surgery going on 4 years ago now ( January 2008 )
I was only 41 at the time and other than needing the surgery, I was in relatively good health.
I have never had to worry about HBP until after the surgery. I almost did not survive.
The doctor told my wife and I the surgery would last no more than 5 hours and that I would be recovering in ICU and wake up as soon as the anesthetic wore off. I was in surgery for over 11 hours and did not wake up for 3 days as they kept me in that state for my body to begin breathing on it’s own again.
I would say that each person is different and typically bring their unique set of health issues to the operating table. I can not tell you if your doctor is right or wrong. I can not say how the news should be broken to your husband of what is going on. I do not that no one wanted me to know how serious things were but I could see it on everyone’s face. I knew it was “grave” when nearly everyone in my family came to see me at the hospital before the surgery with “made up” smiles and well wishes. It all sounds so bleak and gray about what to expect. There is encouragement for you and your husband.
I came through this as did so many others in the hospital. I met a man in his 70′s who was there recovering from his 3rd time of having the operation. That was not good news to me to think I will have to go through this about once every 10 years but then I do not know what God has in store for me tomorrow. If I am there to have the surgery again, God will be there to hold my hand all the way to heaven if that is his will.

“Trust in the Lord your God and lean not on your own understanding. And in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your path” Proverbs 3:5-6

 


RAD says on October 2nd, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Hi, i underwent aortic valve replacement with a pig valve when i was 15.(2007).. at that time i was concerned whether AVR would not allow me to play sports, being an ardent sports enthusiast i took the decision of pig valve.. at this day i do hiking, jogging,play soccer,treking….but still i am worried whether i would need a surgery after 15 yrs….I am happy that lee D had their valve for 28 long years!!!! will mmine last that long?? please help :)

 


jbeckr says on October 18th, 2011 at 9:16 am

On December 2nd, 2010 at age (41) I had my AV replaced with a bovine tissue hear valve, Model 3300TFX. Advertized as exceptional durability to 20 years. So I guess 20 years is what I would expect from the valve. I also had a section of my aorta replaced above the valve due to an aneurysm. I don’t take coumadin but I do take an aspirin and bp medication. I have returned to full activity running, biking, kayaking, softball, basketball and fishing. I have a new appreciation for the more important things in life and have committed myself to being more positive with family and friends. Enjoy life and remember that medical advancements and procedure improvements are happening everyday. Valve replacements are being performed without the sternal incision and I have read articles about valve replacement procedures that are performed through the throat. If you have a tissue valve you will more than likely need another surgery but keep yourself in good shape, eat healthy, stay active, stay engaged in life, love your family, find the best surgeons/hospitals, retire early and appreciate everyday. Get the most out of the valve you have….

 


Karen says on March 29th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

My 16 year old son will have a cow valve to replace his bicuspid some time this summer. What is the recovery like?? we are going to the Mayo clinic though Cleveland was discussed. I would like to know what to expect for him.

Thanks.

 


John says on May 9th, 2012 at 7:22 am

My father is 95 and in good health. He had valve replacement (pig) when he was 82. He’s worried that the valve nearing the end of its life span. I can’t believe that at his age they’d perform open heart surgery again, but don’t know what to tell him.
Comments, suggestions great appreciated.

 


jbeckr says on May 17th, 2012 at 9:10 am

Karen – On December 2nd, 2010 at age (41) I had my AV replaced with a bovine tissue hear valve, Model 3300TFX. The recovery is slow and I would say that it will take a year to a year 1/2 for him to feel completely back to normal. He is young so he will heal faster than I did. The recovery from the sternal incision is the most difficult part after the surgery once he goes home. Your family will also have a hard time seeing him on the ventilation equipment and being hooked up to all the tubes, sensors and monitors. My brothers could not be in the ICU during the initial recovery. He will likely have bruising around his neck area and groin. He will recover faster if he pushes himself to use the spirometer and take deeeep breathes. It hurts but it will help complications to the lungs. Walk with him as much as possible after he goes to the floor, the nurses should let you and they will be busy. The more he walks the faster he can leave. I was in the hospital for 4 days and then home. It is a great feeling to leave the hospital, but I did get angry and lashed out sometime at my family. Looking back I think this was due to the psychological stress and slow healing process. I am sure this is normal, be patient with him and don’t baby him too much.

FYI- if he is somewhat shy like I am have him shave from his ankles to his neck, this will save him some prep time with the nurses before the surgery.

 


Sandy M. says on September 18th, 2012 at 7:56 pm

My mother had a valve replaced at 51. She is now 56 and in recovery from another surgery getting the same valve replaced. She wanted a mechanical valve because of her experience with the pig valve laying only 5 years but Dr informed us she got another pig valve. The Dr seemed to offer many reasons to go with this type but I feel like she was lied to thinking she was getting a mechanical valve. She is not going to be happy about this when she wakes up.

 


Karen says on September 30th, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I had my valve put in 9/10/09. I also had two bypasses. My aorta was so calcified they had to chip out the valve (I have familial hypercholesteremia–type IIA). There was so much calcification they had to “eyeball” the valve size and put it in. it is porcine. Anyhow when they started to pull tubes, I bled and bled and bled. Three packings and two hrs of pressure by my wonderful surgeon controlled the bleeding. Then it was a balancing act to keep my BP low enough so as not to bleed; then too low, drugs to bring it up. Of course I remember nothing but when I woke up I immediately realized an extra day had gone by when I saw things I did not expect to such as my daughter who was not supposed to come until the next day. I am a nurse so I think on some level I was hyperaware of things. The next few days are a blue. I hated the spirometry but did it and came home on the 4th day. I consider myself blessed. I did cardiac rehab and I admit to falling off the food and exercise wagon to some degree about a year ago. i am trying to get it in gear and lose some regained weight, but all in all have done very well. I was 69 when I had surgery and have no idea how long my valve will last. A new one? Depends on when and where and how I feel. My life is way to busy and I must admit my anxiety about my heart is minimal. As long as I look in the mirror and see myself, I gues it is working fine. One day at a time….

 


roger says on August 28th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

my wife had a pigs aortic valve fitted at broadgreen hospital Liverpool by Elaine Griffiths . she had it in 14 years she was taken it to local hospital last week with sever chest pains . they sent her home after 16 hours saying she would have to have a cardograme she is 84 is valve failing can any help she gardens and acts as if she 60 would they replace valve again can any one help please . she never smoked or drunk

 


marilyn rivera says on September 1st, 2013 at 8:52 pm

how much longer will my valve last?

 


Gale says on January 22nd, 2014 at 10:52 pm

I had an emergency openheart surgery after having only jaw pain. I had 6 hour surgery for a torn aorta. When the DR. went to repair it,it shredded to my groin. In addition, he had to replace the aortic valve with a pig valve, and do a single bypass of a heart artery due to a cholesterol block. I had not been put on a blood thinner until a year later when I had some eye blockages that caused my eye to go grey, not seeing out of it partially.
I am now on Pradaxa, and just found out that it is contra-indicated for bioprosthetic valve replacements. Makes you wonder who knows what is right to do, doesn’t it?
My surgery had a 5% “make it” through the emergency. I am soooo lucky to be here, and have had no problem with the heart at all, but, the Drs. want me on so many drugs, including statins, that I no longer know what to do. All Dr. opinions differ.
I ask God and thank Him for my getting through the surgery. I feel fine, but afraid of the differing opinions of various Drs.

 


Ann says on February 25th, 2014 at 10:16 pm

I was born with Ebstein’s Anomaly and had a porcine valve replacement in 1988 at the age of 14 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. My valve still looks pretty good 26 years later. I had absolutely no issues for years. I have one child through a successful and uneventful pregnancy. Three years ago I started experiencing episodes of atrial flutter. It is now controlled with metoprolol and I take a blood thinner. I will need a replacement at some point, but hope that will be several years from now. In the words of E.B. white, I must have had “some pig!”

The longevity of the valve has much to do with which valve is replaced. The tricuspid valve replacements usually last the longest, but are the least common. It is extremely important for those with tricuspid defects to seek out treatment from doctors at facilities with the most experience in treating tricuspid valve defects.

 


Tom says on March 5th, 2014 at 11:03 am

My Mother had aortic valve (pig) replacement at the age of 84yrs old she is now 90…she seems to be ok most of the time but then all of a sudden she will become irritable..I realize that she is 90 however as her full time caregiver I am witnessing at times extreme behavioral problems…I take her to the Doctor every three mons. for a check up her cardiologist says her valve is leaking just a bit however nothing alarming…My Mother is at the stage of her life that even if the Doctor said that she would need more surgery that it would be out of the question my Mother says to me that she has had a wonderful life she just wants to live without having anymore surgeries…My Mother also is indicates to me which she never has before how she wants her funeral and I listen of course but wonder is she trying to tell me something?? She is somewhat active still….any thoughts…Thank You…..Tom

 


louis jehnzen says on March 18th, 2014 at 5:49 pm

I have a pig valve I am 75 can I have a new valve put in or should I just wait this ones is still working ok ?or should I wait tell later I had this one put in in 5 years ago think you louis jehnzen

 


dana says on April 3rd, 2014 at 11:43 pm

I have had my tricuspid valve replaced three times due to Ebstein’s anomaly. First was a mechanical valve. Second was a bovine (cow) valve. And last but not least a porcine (pig) valve, implanted over 20 years ago and it’s still going strong. I am now 42 years old. It is my opinion that the pig valves are the way to go. Good luck to everyone out there who finds themselves in a situation where they need valve replacement surgery. Miracles are possible, never give up.

 


NAB says on May 20th, 2014 at 8:30 pm

I have Tetrology of Fallot. I had my 2nd open heart surgery 30 years ago. My pulmonary valve was replaced with a pig valve. I do have mild pulmonary stenosis and I also have pulmonary regurgitation. Other than that I have no problems.

 


Alan says on May 24th, 2014 at 11:24 pm

A neighbour of ours had a pigs aortic valve replacement in 1988 when he was 72 years old, at 86, the doctor advised him that he should consider surgery to have it replaced, he also advised there were risks about having surgery at this age. He told the doctor that the valve had served him fine and that he was going to take it to the grave with him. He died in 2014 at the age of 98 setting a 26 year medical record in the process. No autopsy was performed and he was in fine form the day before he died.

 


louis jehnzen says on June 17th, 2014 at 8:19 am

will I nead this new valve put in my valve is 5 years old is doing fine?

 


louis jehnzen says on June 17th, 2014 at 8:25 am

will i need this new this new valve put in mine is working fine

 


Harold Holmes says on July 15th, 2014 at 3:48 pm

After reading most of the posts, I will consider myself very lucky. As I stated my valve was put in in 2002 & I am now 81. Maybe I should try for a replacement to try to get
some energy back.

 

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