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First Mechanical Heart Valve Keeps Tickin’ 38 Years Later

Posted by Adam Pick on May 30th, 2008

As I wrote earlier about the first mechanical heart valves, doctors could do little to help people with failing heart valves until 1960, when Portland heart surgeon Dr. Albert Starr and engineer Lowell Edwards introduced their mechanical heart valve. Here is a picture of a replica of the first ball-in-cage heart valve replacement that was given to me by Edwards Lifesciences.

First Heart Valve Replacement - Caged Ball Design

One of the key questions patients ask me is, “How long did the early mechanical heart valves last?”

Well, below you can see scans of a Starr-Edwards heart valves from a 67-year-old Montreal woman. The valves have been functioning flawlessly 38 years after surgeons implanted them. The aortic valve is open in the left image, and the mitral valve is open in the right. The New England Journal of Medicine featured the cardiac catheterization images from the Montreal Heart Institute in its May 22 issue.

Ultrasound Images Of First Mechanical Heart Valve Replacement

Before Starr and Edwards developed their mechanical heart valve, no patient had lived longer than three months after heart valve replacement attempts. Four of Starr’s earliest patients lived more than 40 years.


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.


Bill Holbert says on August 19th, 2008 at 10:30 pm

Dear Adam:
I am Bill Holbert a Long Time firefighter Paramedic my wife just had Aortic and Mytral valve replacements on 8/15/2008 and is doing very well she is still on a temporary pacer but only on the ventricular side I am happy to see
such an improvement in her she has better color and it is easier for her to talk and not have to catch her breath I am glad to see your page because even though i am a Medic firefighter you still wander what a patients quility of life will be for their future and as i can tell it improves things tremendously….


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