Smeloff-Cutter Heart Valve

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This caged ball valve was developed by Dr. Edward Smeloff. The struts are thick and flat, which was disadvantageous because it made clotting more likely. The struts at the top and bottom remain open and unconnected to the lower surface area. It has a titanium skeleton with a silastic ball and a Teflon sewing ring. Its advantages are long term durability and good hemodynamics. The disadvantages are a high embolic rate and the need to take an anticoagulant. A 1975 study on 200 patients who received this implant yielded a hospital mortality rate of 22% and a thromboembolic complication rate of 15%. Another study of 134 patients with a mean age of 54 years and aortic stenosis as the dominant issue yielded an 85% survival rate of 5 years and a 75% survival rate of eight years. Its main structural problem is that of ball variance, but it has an advantage over disc valves with a lower rate of thrombotic stenosis.
Dr. Edward Smeloff (1925-2012) worked with the engineering department at Sacramento State College to develop a mechanical heart. The Smeloff-Cutter valve was manufactured by Cutter Laboratories, a family-owned pharmaceutical company in Berkeley, California founded by Edward Ahern Cutter in 1897.
Currently not on view
date made
after 1966
Cutter Laboratories, Inc.
place made
United States: California, Berkeley
Physical Description
titanium (valve material)
cloth (valve material)
silastic (valve material)
valve: 3.2 cm x 2.6 cm; 1 1/4 in x 1 1/32 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Manuel Villafaña
Artificial Organs
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Artificial Heart Valves
Health & Medicine
Data Source
National Museum of American History


This valve nearly killed me. I had one implanted in March 1983 and within weeks I became jaundiced and anemic. After a battery of tests it was clear that the valve was chopping up red blood cells and platelets. The surgeon insisted that there was a fissure in the suture and he performed a second open heart surgery in July 1983 to "repair" the issue. It did not work. In September 1983 I was sent to Jewish Hospital in St Louis where the valve was replaced with another type of valve. No one ever told me what was wrong with the valve.
Husband has had this valve for almost 47 years. Had aortic stenosis. Surgery performed at the Cleveland Clinic - January 10, 1971. Surgeon - Doctor Groves. At that time he repaired the mitral valve which lasted until 1999. Has taken anticoagulants since 1971. He had the mitral valve replaced at the Cleveland Clinic in December 1999. Surgeon Toby Cosgrove. The aortic valve has some leakage which is being carefully monitored by Premier Health Care in Dayton, Ohio. Physician: Dr. Kamran Riaz.
I have read your comments about your husbands Smeloff-Cutter Valve and his aparent "leak". I have the same valve as of July 1969. Dr. Denton Cooley in Houston,Tx was my surgeon at the time. Over many years of seeing different cardiologist in different parts of the world, I was several times told that my artificial aortic valve is "leaking". At one point, I have talked to Dr. Cooley,telling him that my valve aparently has a leak. (I myself could hear the leak when using a stethoscope.) He laughed at me. Yes, there is a desiged "leak" as much as the ball is not sitting on the ring, but stopped by three metal prongs before completely seated, This makes the ball less damaging the blood particles and prevents the blood from being smashed. So, when you listen you can hear, at the end of the systolic heart murmur a fine hiss sound, which sounds like a leak because it is a "leak", but it is a wanted leak!
"I worked at Cutter Lab for 5 years back in the 70's...I still have my 5 year pin. I polished hundreds of these valves after they came in from the filers. They were one of the harder ones to polish because they came in different sizes, the baby valve was the hardest but the prettiest....because the struts were so close together. Sometimes we had to re-work them several times without scraping them to pass QA inspection. I especially loved polishing baby valve but liked all the others Cutter produced...I miss working there but thank goodness for the memories"

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