What are heart valves?
Heart valves help the heart muscle pump blood around the body by stopping blood from flowing backward. People who have heart valves that do not work properly, can suffer from shortness of breath, tiredness, dizzy spells and in some cases, can actually look blue because of the lack of oxygen in their blood. These symptoms can be relieved by a heart valve replacement operation.
Three different types of heart valves can be used for heart valve replacement surgery:
- animal tissue
The Queensland Heart Valve Bank (QHVB) specializes in human heart tissue.
Who can be a heart tissue donor?
Most people! Heart tissue, like many transplantable tissues, can be donated up to 24 hours after death. Having a ‘bad heart’, high blood pressure or heart disease does not mean that your heart valves are not working effectively. So even with these conditions, your donated heart tissue can be used to help people in need of heart tissue replacement.
There are certain criteria that heart tissue donors must fulfill. The criteria enable us to provide tissue that will give the recipient the best chance of a disease-free future. A heart tissue donor must be under 60 years of age and have no evidence of transmissible disease, infection or cancer.
Who will receive donated heart tissue?
Children who are born with either abnormal valves/vessels or missing valves/vessels, and people whose heart valves have stopped working effectively. In most cases, these stop working effectively due to disease (for example rheumatic fever) or degeneration (wearing out).
Advantages of using donated human heart tissue.
There are many advantages in using human heart tissue
People require less drugs to fight side-effects associated with mechanical or animal tissues. This is important especially for women of childbearing age, patients who live in remote areas far from medical attention, and for those who are very active and prone to injury. Human heart tissue recipients do not require anti-rejection drugs.
What other heart tissue is affected with the donation of a heart valve?
Heart valves are situated inside the vessels and cannot be retrieved without these vessels being attached. The pulmonary valve sits inside the pulmonary artery while the aortic valve sits inside the aorta. Portions of these vessels, the aorta and pulmonary artery, are extremely useful in surgical reconstruction of abnormal or missing vessels in the hearts of young children.
What do you need to do to be a heart tissue donor?
While you are still alive you can choose to donate your heart tissue upon death. The most important thing to do is to talk to your family, partner and friends about organ and tissue donation. Let them know about your views on donation, and become aware of their views. In the event of your death, your next of kin is always the person contacted to find out what your wishes were in relation to donation. Formalise your decision by recording your decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register.
Queensland Heart Valve Bank
Organ and Tissue Donation Service, Division of Chief Health Office
The Prince Charles Hospital
Chermside QLD 4032
Phone: (07) 3139 4367