YOUR HEALTH: A better valve option for heart patients

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Carrie Hughes was born with a heart valve defect but she didn't know it until symptoms popped up a couple of years ago.

"I started having shortness of breath, a hard time getting around."

This active mom of three also battled limb numbness and extreme fatigue.

"It took everything I had to kind of get up and go and start the day."

She needed a heart valve replacement.

In the past, doctors only offered young patients like Carrie a mechanical valve because it lasts the longest.

The downside: she'd have to take blood thinners for the rest of her life.   These medicines can cause serious dangers such as bleeding, drug interactions, and more.

There are two kinds of artificial valves and until now, younger patients only had one option. Now, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic are using a new state-of-the-art biological valve that could be another option for young patients.

Doctors at Cleveland Clinic are using a new type of biological valve that could last longer and be an option for young patients.

"We hope that this valve would fill a niche there for the younger patient who wants a more durable, long-term valve," explained Dr. Lars Svensson, chairman of the Heart and Valve Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.

With a biological valve, patients don't have to take blood thinners.

The new valve is made from a cow's heart sac.  Its anti-calcification properties allow it to last longer than traditional biological valves.  And its expandable frame allows for an easy replacement if a new valve is needed down the road.

"Right now, I feel so much better. I can tell a big difference," said Carrie.

With her new valve in place, she's ready to start living life again.

Dr. Svensson says it will likely take another ten to 15 years before researchers know for sure if this valve will last as long as they think.

So far it seems very durable. in a clinical trial, this biological valve was used in more than 600 patients.  Now that it's FDA approved, patients like Carrie can benefit.

TREATMENT OPTIONS:  The most commonly replaced valves are the aortic and mitral valves.   Pulmonary and tricuspid replacements are fairly uncommon in adults. Surgical options for valve replacement include mechanical valves which are long-lasting valves made of durable materials, tissue valves which may include human or animal donor tissue, Ross procedure, which involves borrowing healthy valves and moving them into the position of the damaged aortic valve, TAVI or TAVR; transcatheter aortic valve replacement, along with some newer surgery options.  The procedure chosen will depend on the valve that needs replacing, severity of the symptoms, and risk of surgery.   Some procedures may require a person to take long-term medication to prevent blood clots.  (Source: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/HeartValveProblemsandDisease/Options-for-Heart-Valve-Replacement_UCM_450816_Article.jsp#.Wns4Y66nFaQ)

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments contact Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.