Posted on June 21st, 2012 under Aortic Stenosis, Heart Valve Replacement.
Tanya just sent me a very interesting question about heart valve replacement surgery.
She writes, “Hi Adam – I’ve been diagnosed with a narrow aortic valve at .6 centimeters. I’m currently debating between a mechanical and tissue valve replacement. I’m curious to know how the surgeons get the valves. Do the hospitals order the replacement valves before the surgery? Or, are the valve replacements stored at the hospital? Thanks, Tanya”
I don’t know how all hospitals manage this process but I’ve been fortunate to tour a few cardiac centers that specialize in heart valve treatment. Each one of these centers kept their heart valve replacement devices on-site, ready for implant. More specifically, the devices were stored in large, protected drawers. As you can see, this is a picture of the ‘St. Jude Medical’ drawer I photographed during a recent visit to the Cleveland Clinic.
St. Jude Heart Valve Replacement Drawer at Cleveland Clinic
It’s also interesting to note that certain heart valve replacements are stored at very low temperatures to preserve the integrity of the tissue. For example, the Cryolife homografts (human donor valve replacements) are typically stored at or below freezing prior to implant.
One of the reasons that hospitals maintain a heart valve replacements inventory is the fact that our heart valves are different in size. That said, the surgeon must have the ability to select the right valve size after the replacement is properly measured using a heart valve sizer.
Heart Valve Sizer Tool
I hope this helps Tanya (and perhaps you) better understand how heart valve replacement devices are stored prior to implant.
Keep on tickin!