Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Which type of replacement valve should I get?

Q. I am 77 years old, and my doctor recommended surgery to replace my aortic valve. He said my choice is between a mechanical valve and a pig valve. Which is the preferred option?

A. Generally, people with mechanical and tissue (pig) valves do comparably well. However, your age and other factors can play a role in selecting one or the other. Tissue valves typically wear out before mechanical valves do, often in 15 years or less.

People in their late 70s and 80s often go with a tissue valve. Their age makes it less likely that they'll outlive their valve and need another operation. Tissue valves also free you from having to take a blood thinner like warfarin (Coumadin, generic) every day to combat the risk of clotting that comes with mechanical valves.

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