Sometimes heart valves can't be repaired and must be replaced. This surgery involves removing the faulty valve and replacing it with a man-made valve or a biologic valve.
Biologic valves are made from pig, cow or human heart tissue and may have man-made parts as well. These valves are specially treated, so no medicines are needed to stop the body from rejecting the valve.
Man-made valves are more durable than biologic valves and usually don't have to be replaced. Biologic valves usually have to be replaced after about 10 years, although newer biologic valves may last 15 years or longer.
Unlike biologic valves, however, man-made valves require you to take blood-thinning medicines for the rest of your life. These medicines prevent blood clots from forming on the valve. Blood clots can cause a heart attack or stroke. Man-made valves also raise your risk for endocarditis.
You and your doctor will decide together whether you should have a man-made or biologic replacement valve. If you're a woman of childbearing age or if you're athletic, you may prefer a biologic valve so you don't have to take blood-thinning medicines. If you're elderly, you also may prefer a biologic valve, as it will likely last for the rest of your life.
Please feel free to download and view our booklet on heart surgery information for patients and their families (1.7MB, PDF).
More information is available on the Cardiovascular Center Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) FAQ page.