What is a Mechanical Heart Valve ?
Mechanical heart valves are composed of manufactured materials made to mimic the properties of a natural heart valve. Mechanical heart valves are created from man-made materials. This can include, but is not limited to: steel, ceramics, and even titanium. Compared to other artificial heart valves, mechanical heart valves are longer lasting. Once a natural heart valve is replaced by a mechanical heart valve it is built to last a lifetime.
The human heart is made up of four valves. These valves are commonly known as Aortic, Mitral, Tricuspid, and Pulmonary valve, each of which work similarly to one another. The basic function of the valve is opening to allow the blood to flow through, then the valve closing to prevent the blood from flowing backward through the valves into the chambers of the heart. Each of the four heart valves performs this with every beat of the heart. Mechanical heart valves work in much the same way as the natural heart valves; they open to facilitate blood flow, they close to prevent the backflow of blood, and they perform this way with each heartbeat.
What Medication Will I need To Take ?
Once a person has a heart valve replaced by a mechanical heart valve they will be required to start taking blood-thinning medications. This is because the heart valve may have a tendency for blood to stick to the artificial materials that can result in the development of a blood clot. Coumadin and the generic, warfarin, are prescribed by your physician to prevent a blood clot from forming.
It is very important that patients properly monitor their doses of medication and take them as prescribed by their doctor. The doctor changes the dosage of Coumadin or warfarin based on the INR which tells the physician how quickly the blood is clotting. If the INR is too high, internal bleeding can occur, and if the INR is too low, a clot can form. Weekly INR tests done with the CoaguChek XS meter can be performed quickly and easily from home in order to ensure you remain within your prescribed safe therapeutic range.
Who needs a Heart Valve ?
There are several reason a person may need to get a heart valve (or more than one) replaced by a mechanical heart valve. Simply put, a person may need surgery if their valve works improperly. Examples of this include having a valve that does not open completely which will prevent the full flow of the forward flowing blood. This condition is commonly known as stenosis. Another example of an improperly working valve would be regurgitation in which the valve does not completely close causing the forwarding flowing blood to leak backwards.