As elective surgery, I had my first heart valve operation in 1997 to repair my congenital bi-cuspid aortic valve. The initial repair worked well for 3 days, then tore. As a result the surgeons talked me into a pig valve which they said would last from 8 to 16 years. What they neglected to tell me was that the healthier one is, the less amount of time a pig (porcine) or cow (bovine) heart valve lasts. Thus, just seven years later my good immune system had built up so much calcium on the replaced heart valve that the opening was diminishing. Wanting to avoid the nightmare of my previous experience, I was looking for every option I could unearth. Another animal heart .valve to buy another few years was not an option I was willing to do nor was the option of a mechanical heart valve that clicks when it closes. I can’t go to sleep with a ticking clock or a dripping faucet, so the mechanical heart valves that I was aware of were also not options.
Not having any good options, I tried my best to do things to remove the calcification from my own heart valve. The good news is that I succeeded. The bad news is that the calcification was holding my valve together, so the valve basically fell apart and I went into congestive heart failure. Again, not having any acceptable options, I chose to live in that state for a month and a half as I looked for other options. I gave myself until mid-Oct. 2005 to find some other option as I was told that I was already on borrowed time and I’d surely be dead by the end of that month. All the while I was doing my research and looking for a miracle. That miracle happened on Sept. 30 when a very progressive doctor told me that I needed to insist on having an On-X heart valve and gave my the website to contact. On Oct. 3 I called On-X. Their technical specialist could tell by my voice that I was in real need and just two days later I traveled to UCLA Medical Center where I met with the surgeon who knew enough to only use On-X heart valves (no surgeon in Santa Barbara had even heard of the On-X valves (a story I was later to learn was rather diabolical as the other mechanical valve companies were actively working to keep the information on the On-X valve away from surgeons for fear that their lesser valves would be forced out of business). Nine days later I had the operation.
Though I was now 59 years old, the recovery from the operation was a universe easier than from my experience eight years prior. Within a month I was doing some pretty heavy lifting and my energy came back in half the time than it did from the porcine valve. One of the things I rejoiced in was that I couldn’t hear the valve. I can tell no real difference between my On-X valve and my own heart valve I had before the operations.
Another issue they tell you about is to avoid foods with vitamin K when you have a mechanical heart valve. When I read what the foods are that have vitamin K, it was virtually everything I eat—all the good veggies that are necessary for one’s overall health. Bad trade off. So, because I am very consistent in my vitamin K intake, I chose to keep eating the health-promoting K foods. At first that met that my coumadin dosage was 10 mg, but, when I learned that the On-X valves were so well designed that one could have their INR ratio down to as low as 1.5*(see reference below), I now am just on 7 mg.
Now about six years on from the surgery I don’t feel like I have any limitations—it’s like the whole challenge I went through is a thing of the past and never really happened. I have a home INR ratio machine to weekly monitor my level and only see my cardiologist once a year. So, as that progressive doctor told me eight years ago, if you are going to have a mechanical heart valve, insist on an On-X valve. Their technical specialist will help you just as they acted so quickly to help me.”
Until the completion and analysis of study data, On-X Life Technologies, Inc., continues to recommend standard anticoagulation therapy as presently prescribed by various professional societies for the On-X valve.1
1. ACC/ AHA 2006 Guidelines for the Management of Patients With Valvular Heart Disease: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines (Writing Committee to Revise the1998 Guidelines for the Management of Patients With Valvular Heart Disease): Developed in Collaboration With the Society of Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists Endorsed by the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons Circulation 2006;114;84-231. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.106.176857