Wednesday, 26. of October 2016
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Valvular heart disease 75 years ago and today

The following text is taken from the book "Modern medical reference" from 1940:

"People should not believe that the main symptoms show an obvious link with the heart. The first complaints are often various digestion problems, headaches, dizziness etc. The cardiac defect is only revealed by precise specialist examination. Shortness of breath is frequently one of the first complaints: it starts early on and later becomes one of the most troubling symptoms… Breathing becomes increasingly difficult and in the end death is the only release for the patient from his miserable condition. In the great majority of cases it is not possible to cure valvular heart disease because the anatomical changes to the valves cannot be eliminated."

What progress there has been in diagnostic and surgical capabilities over the last 70 years!

Artificial heart valves for over 50 years

It first became possible to replace a badly diseased heart valve in 1960, using an artificial caged ball valve. It is Harken and Starr whom we have to thank for pioneering this operation which extends life expectancy. Since 1960, researchers have been working on developing heart valves so that patients with valvular heart disease can look forward to a virtually normal life expectancy.


In the 70s, surgical techniques were developed to minimize complications during heart valve surgery. In the 80s the development of good, haemodynamic artificial heart valves was in the foreground - these aimed to achieve quasi-physiological blood flow through the implanted valve.

18,285 heart valves were implanted in 1995 in Germany alone. These comprised 13,123 mechanical heart valve prostheses (71.7%) and 5162 biological heart valve prostheses (28.3%).

In the next few years this ratio of approx. 70% mechanical and 30% biological heart valve prostheses will probably remain unchanged.

Nowadays heart valve replacement is a routine operation. Nevertheless several factors should be borne in mind and these factors are outlined on the following pages.

... and this is what they look like today: