I was born with aortic stenosis and needed intervention 9 years later. A valvuloplasty was performed , where it was discovered that I had bicuspid aortic heart valve. They opened up the third leaflet, but there was lots of regurgitation afterwards. I was told I would need a replacement later on. Within five years, it had gotten fairly bad and it was determined that I was grown enough to have a replacement. My valve was replaced with a 21 mm Bjork-Shiley mechanical valve that I was told had a lifespan of 10 to 15 years until I would outgrow it. Everything was fine for 15 years and I started questioning my cardiologists about the 15 year replacement and was kind of given the runaround for a few years until I demanded a straight answer from them. I was told then that they would not do another surgery unless it was absolutely necessary as the risks were too great.
In 2003, my cardiologist retired and my files were lost for a time so it was late 2009 before I finally got set up with a new cardiologist. By this time I was noticing and experiencing alot of shortness of breath, tiredness, etc. Right off the bat my new cardiologist agreed that I had most likely outgrown my old heart valve and a replacement would be needed. A battery of tests was ordered and I began my internet research on heart valves. I came across the On-X website and began doing lots of comparisons between the On-X heart valve and St. Jude valves. The On-X heart valve attracted me for several reasons:
1.The PROACT study
2. On-X Carbon (big seller)
3. The fact that it was made with pure carbon
4. The fact that On-X company founder was the pioneer of this technology
5. Many patient testimonials that were already on the site.
In February, 2011 my cardiologist determined that yes, I needed a new valve and yes, I was eligible for surgery and would be looking at it in the next year. I asked her about the On-X valve and she told me that was the preferred choice of my surgeon. So that was the final selling point and I officially decided right then that I definitely wanted the On-X heart valve. I still continued to research other valves , but the On-X heart valve always came out on top.
After a few more tests, it was determined that there was also a small aneurism in my descending aorta and my ascending aorta was also enlarged and would most likely be replaced. I asked my surgeon about the combined On-X aortic heart valve and aortic graft but this was just 2 weeks prior to surgery and he hadn’t heard about it yet nor would it be available to him just yet, so he had to do it the old fashioned way (sew the graft to the valve).
On August 17, 2011, the surgeon and his team replaced my 21mm Bjork-Shiley valve with a 23 mm On-X aortic heart valve and replaced my ascending aorta in a 6 hour surgery. I was in the ICU for 24 hours and on my way home exactly 7 days post surgery. Recovery has been uneventful with my return to work 12 weeks post op.
The big benefits I have noticed so far are YES, the On-X heart valve is definitely quieter than the old Bjork-Shiley and my INR range is now lower–between 2 and 3 now where before it was 2.5 – 3.5. I have not noticed too much on the physical side, as far as improvements go, but I have noticed a bit more energy and longevity and I am still only 3 months post op so there is still lots of room for improvement!
My biggest disappointment with the surgery is that I really wanted and waited 25 years to have my old heart valve as a souvenir and they would not let me keep it. It was against hospital policy !!!!!!
Thank you very much!