What is the lifespan of a mechanical heart valve?

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Q: My mother is undergoing surgery to have a mechanical heart valve. What is the lifespan of a mechanical heart valve?

A: Mechanical heart valves are made of a substance called pyrolytic carbon, which is similar to industrial grade diamond. It is very hard and wears very little.

These valves are tested for durability by making the valve open and close over and over again like in the heart (about the same number of heart beats if you lived 100 years!) and show almost no wear.

Although mechanical failure is extremely unlikely, there are other problems like infection that could require further surgery. This is also very unlikely if the patient follows the American Heart Association's recommendations.


Dr. Allen Raczkowski practices Cardiothoracic Surgery and General Surgery at Banner Heart Hospital.

Dr. Allen Raczkowski

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Dr. Raczkowski practices Cardiothoracic Surgery and General Surgery at Banner Heart Hospital. Renowned as the world's leading robotic cardiac surgeon, he uses a special technology, the Da Vinci robot, which enables him to perform delicate procedures such as valve repairs and coronary artery surgery.

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You may need heart valve surgery for these reasons: Changes in your heart valve causes severe cardiac symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting or cardiac failure. Studies show that changes in your heart valve began to seriously affect your heart function. The doctor wants to replace or repair heart valves at the same time you have an open heart surgery for another reason. The heart valve has been damaged by an infection of the heart valves. You have received a new heart in the past, and it is not working well or if you have other problems like blood clots, infections or bleeding.