First Mechanical Heart Valve Keeps Tickin’ 38 Years Later
By Adam Pick on May 30, 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.
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.
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!