Defective aortic heart valves typically can be replaced with a mechanical or animal-tissue-based valve. Both options have drawbacks: In most cases, patients with a mechanical valve will need to take blood thinners for the rest of their lives to prevent blood clots, while tissue valves have a limited lifespan, requiring younger patients to undergo replacement surgery. Polymer-based heart valve replacements currently being tested may offer a better alternative.
Calcium build up on the aortic valve, caused by calcific aortic valve disease, can lead to heart failure, notes the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), part of the National Institutes of Health. The condition affects more than 2.5 million people over the age of 75 in the United States. For many years, the valves have been replaced through open-heart surgery. Increasingly, older patients who cannot tolerate surgery have been treated with a minimally invasive procedure, transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), in which a new valve compressed into a catheter is guided through a blood vessel and expanded on top of the diseased valve… Continue reading.