Designing a reliable and effective artificial heart valve, one as efficient as a human valve, has proven to be a formidable task. Stumbling blocks to success included finding biocompatible materials to avoid rejection by the patient’s body. Tissue valves were one answer. Made from the biological tissue of pig valves and the tissue surrounding a cow’s heart, they must be kept in a sealed container with fluid to maintain viability.
Another hurdle is developing an efficient and structurally sound device that can withstand years of wear. Innovative materials such as Pyrolytic carbon, silicone, Teflon and Dacron proved compatible with the body.
Also challenging is designing the valve so that it does not cause harm to the body, such as destroying blood cells or creating clots and thromboembolism. Refinements to shape and design have allowed blood to move more effectively through valves.
*Unless otherwise indicated, artifacts are Gift of Manny Villafaña