Health Beat

Health Beat: Biological heart valve for young patients

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

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

The 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 continued.

Hughes needed a heart valve replacement. In the past, doctors only offered young patients like Hughes a mechanical valve because it lasts the longest. The downside: she'd have to take blood thinners for the rest of her life. Those medications can cause serious dangers, such as bleeding, drug interactions, and more.

But doctors at the 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," said Dr. Lars Svensson, the chairman of the Heart & Vascular Institute at 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," Hughes said.

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

Svensson said it will likely take another 10 to 15 years before researchers know for sure if the valve will last as long as they think. So far, it seems very durable. In a clinical trial, the biological valve was used in more than 600 patients, and now that it's FDA-approved, patients like Hughes can benefit.


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