Heart disease is one of the most common health issues among Americans today.
What can be done to fix this?
Physicians might suggest heart valve implants for heart disease patients, but is this safe?
CBS news reports on heart implants.
Hundreds of thousands of patients have already received them but apparently this might not have been a good option. Doctors are now saying that the heart valves they do not always open and close properly, possibly because a blood clot has formed that could raise the risk of a stroke.
The problem is actually common; but federal health officials say that not enough is known about the issue to pull it off the market. They are also saying that they find that the valve is still worth the risk.
“But it's bound to be unsettling for people with bioprosthetic aortic valves, ones made from cow, pig or human tissue. They have become more popular than mechanical ones made from synthetic materials because they don't require lifelong use of blood thinners to prevent blood clots,” according to CBS news.
When did these concerns first emerge?
Experts say they first became preoccupied with the safety concern last year in a study testing a tube-placed valve. Doctors did scans on two patients, including one who had a stroke, and the scans showed that their valves were not properly working.
Dr. Raj Makkar, the physician at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles leading the study, wanted to know how widespread this issue has been. He and others in the study, published a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, where they say the problem has now been found in 22 of 55 (40 percent) of patients in the study, and in 17 of 132 (13 percent) of patients in two registries tracking tissue valve recipients.
The originally study was performed by testing a valve from St. Jude Medical Center, but the problem has now been seen in other brands too, and it is with valves implanted surgically, not just those put in through tubes. Experts say this suggests the problem could affect many people, although it is unknown if the risk is just soon after the implant or lasts longer than that.
CBS news reports, “Six of the 187 patients had a stroke or mini stroke and that was slightly more likely among those whose valves were not moving properly, but the numbers are too small to be conclusive.”
Researchers said a few valve recipients were on blood thinners, but those taking warfarin, sold as Coumadin and other brands, seemed protected from the issue, and warfarin also successfully treated the problem.
Dr. David Holmes Jr. of the Mayo Clinic, wrote a commentary in the journal with another heart specialist. He said the new report bring up essential questions. It raises issues like: how long does the risk last, whether it is due to clots or something else, and whether it is more common with tube versus surgically placed valves. Physicians need to know who to watch and how to watch them, and what to do if they find an issue.
Dr. Makkar said, “Patients who recently received a tissue valve can talk with their doctors and see if imaging is being offered to check for the problem - it is at his hospital. These devices are life-saving; the worst thing that could happen is that people get the wrong idea and are afraid to have a valve fixed.”