Lillehei-Kaster Valve Tilting-Disc Valve

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Description (Brief)
This is a Lillehei-Kaster tilting-disc valve made of pyrolytic carbon. Approximately 17,500 of these valves were distributed. It is made of titanium and pyrolite-coated graphite. It has a low embolic rate, good hemodynamics, and low hemolysis. The angular opening of tilting disc valve reduces damage to the blood cells. The white plastic holder attached to the valve is used to position the valve during the implantation procedure.
Tilting disc valves were first introduced by Lillehei-Kaster in 1969. Robert Kaster (1934-2014) received an engineering degree from the University of Minnesota (1951). He later worked at Cornell Medical School as a biological engineer. He became interested in designing prostheses while working in Dr. C. Walton Lillehei's laboratory. It was there that he designed the tilting disc valve. The disc is held in place by two side struts. Kaster also worked with another valve creator, Dr. Jack Bokros, to develop the disc. Lillehei-Kaster valves were produced by Medical Incorporated in Minneapolis. These valves demonstrated high durability due to their pyrolyte composition and had "essentially no valve failures."
Dr. C. Walton Lillehei (1918-1999) a pioneering surgeon was named the "father of open heart surgery" by the American Heart Association. He earned his undergraduate, medical degree, and doctorate in surgery degrees from University of Minnesota. He became a medical school professor for the university and trained other heart doctors, such as Christiaan Barnard of Cape Town, South Africa, who performed the world’s first heart transplant. Lillehei and a colleague, Dr. Richard Wall, resolved the issue of circulating blood during surgery by developing a successful heart-lung machine, called a helix reservoir bubble oxygenator. He also helped to develop one of the first successful pacemakers in 1957, and contributed to the design of the successful and widely used St. Jude Medical valve. During the 1960s, Dr. Lillehei was president of the American College of Cardiology and in 1975, he became director of medical affairs at St. Jude Medical Incorporated.
Currently not on view
date made
place made
United States: Minnesota, Minneapolis
Physical Description
pyrolite-coated graphite (valve material)
titanium (valve material)
teflon (valve material)
plastic (holder material)
valve: 1.6 cm x 3.1 cm; 5/8 in x 1 7/32 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
serial 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


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