In the early days of cardiac surgery it was thought that the heart could not be directly operated on or changed in any way. After the first successful open-heart surgery was performed in 1953 using the Cardiopulmonary Bypass machine [1], surgeons began to explore different methods to repair the heart, the most significant of which was the creation of the artificial heart valve. 

The development of the artificial heart valve revolutionized surgical medicine and changed the way people viewed their bodies in regards to their health. Before it’s initial implantation by Albert Starr and M. Lowell Edwards in the early 1960s [2] surgeons were using the Hufnagel valve which was not as accurate or successful. The Starr-Edwards invention is the model from which valves are still based on today [3].  From the creation of the artificial valve came the use of recreated tissue valves, the possibility for the artificial heart and other organs.

Why the need for artificial heart valves:

“In a normal person, a valve at the base of the aorta, where it leads off from the left ventricle, closes after each contraction or beat, holding the blood in the circulatory system while the ventricle is filling again for another beat. But when the fragile valve leaves are thickened or misshapen by disease, they can’t close completely. Some blood leaks back into the ventricle after each beat.” [4]

[picture source]

Leave a Reply