Mechanical stress as cause of aortic valve disease. Presentation of a new aortic root prosthesis

F Robicsek, M J Thubrikar
Acta Chirurgica Belgica 2002, 102 (1): 1-6
We present an overview of studies on the aortic valve and propose that mechanical stress is a main causative factor in the degenerative valvular disease. In the normal aortic valve, the leaflets have a smooth surface, free of wrinkles and creases, throughout the opening process. This smooth leaflet surface during motion is achieved by the "pull and release" movement of the commissures, which occurs because of the compliance of the aortic root. When the aortic root is stiffened, either by artificial means or by the loss of elasticity due to aging, the leaflet dynamics change significantly. The leaflets develop a significant number of creases and wrinkles during the opening process. In the bileaflet valve, the leaflets develop similar creasing and wrinkling during the opening process. This happens mainly due to the less-than-ideal design of the bileaflet valve and in spite of the compliant aortic root. When the aortic valve is spared using a noncompliant tube graft, a similar phenomenon of leaflet creasing occurs. Because the creasing produces high stresses from bending and buckling, it is damaging to the leaflet tissue and can lead to degenerative and calcific valvular disease. Based on these observations a new aortic root prosthesis with compliant sinuses has been designed for the valve sparing operation.

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