Toledoan Receives New Cow Tissue Heart Valve

Hitting the links was a regular past time for retired Toledo resident Rick Sobecki. The 56-year-old would spend hours on the golf course playing with friends when he noticed all the walking was starting to become difficult and he would get out of breath.

Eventually, something as simple as taking a stroll through his neighborhood would wear him out. “I’d walk a couple of blocks from my house and think ‘Wow, am I going to be able to get back home?’,” Sobecki said.

A screening revealed he had atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heart rate that causes poor blood flow to the body. During a follow-up appointment with cardiothoracic surgeon Michael Moront, MD, FACS, ProMedica Physicians, Sobecki learned he also had some artery blockage as well as aortic stenosis caused by a congenital heart defect in which he was born with an aortic valve with two leaflets instead of three.

His condition made him a candidate to participate in a global clinical study of a new aortic heart valve. The Medtronic, Inc. PERIGON (PERIcardial SurGical AOrtic Valve ReplacemeNt) Pivotal Trial evaluates an investigational surgical aortic heart valve made from cow heart (bovine pericardial) tissue that is intended to replace a diseased, damaged or malfunctioning native or prosthetic aortic valve.

“This new Medtronic valve has been engineered for durability, efficiency and has a large opening so blood flow out of the heart is not impeded,” Dr. Moront said. “Also, this valve is treated with a special anti-calcification chemical, which has been highly successful in preventing calcification in other valve leaflets.”

In October, Dr. Moront implanted the valve in Sobecki at ProMedica Toledo Hospital, making him the nation’s first patient to receive it. The valve can be implanted during open heart surgery as was the case with Sobecki or in a minimally invasive fashion.

“A lot of people have aortic stenosis or a blockage of the valve,” said Dr. Moront. “The concern is when the stenosis gets bad, the valve becomes calcified and it doesn’t open properly. The heart works overtime, becomes thick, doesn’t function well and blood can back up into the lungs.”

People with aortic stenosis often experience shortness of breath, chest pain and fatigue. They are prone to heart failure, cardiac arrest and a small percentage of people will die suddenly. Worldwide approximately 300,000 people suffer from the condition.

Sobecki spent a few days in the hospital after having the valve replacement surgery and will be monitored closely for the next year. He is anxious to get back on the golf course and appreciates this second chance for better health.

“I’m looking forward to losing weight, playing with my great nieces and enjoying life,” Sobecki said.

Learn more about the clinical study by watching our video below.