There are two basic types of replacements for heart valves. Each type requires different follow-up care and is associated with different risks and benefits.
As a rule, biologic valves are recommended for women who intend to have children, because they don’t require the use of anticoagulant medications, which may be toxic to fetuses.
Mechanical valves are made of metal or synthetics and come in a variety of sizes and designs. They can last a lifetime. However, because blood clots can form on the valve, patients who have them must take anticoagulant medications and have their blood monitored regularly. The risk of infection is increased, so it’s necessary to take antibiotics before dental or gastroenterologic procedures.
These valves are taken from pigs or cattle or, less frequently, from human cadavers. They aren’t as long-lasting as mechanical valves, but do not present as great a risk of blood clots, so patients who have them usually don’t have to take anticoagulants for the rest of their lives. They’re also vulnerable to infection, requiring preventive antibiotics before dental or gastroenterologic procedures.
Date Last Modified: January 21, 2011
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