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Heart Beat: Testing a no-warfarin heart valve

April 01, 2006

Heart Beat

Testing a no-warfarin heart valve

Having a heart valve replaced means making a tricky trade-off: Do you choose a mechanical model that can last 30 years or more but requires that you take warfarin to prevent small clots that can form on the device? Or do you choose a biological valve that will wear out in 10–15 years but doesn't require that you take warfarin?

A company called Medical Carbon Research Institute hopes to make that choice a thing of the past. The FDA has okayed a clinical trial of the company's On-X valve with reduced anticoagulation. Volunteers at low risk for clots will take aspirin and clopidogrel (Plavix), not warfarin, to prevent clots after getting a new valve. Success of the trial could mean we finally have a "valve for life," says Dr. Sidney Levitsky, a Harvard professor of surgery who is helping oversee the trial.

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