Sathya Sai Hospital to start India's first heart valve bank
Tuesday January 31 2006 00:00 IST

BANGALORE: In a landmark initiative aimed at minimising the number of deaths due to cardiac problems in the country, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences (SSSIHMS) is planning to establish India's first heart valve bank at its hospital complex at White Field here soon.

Modelled after eye banks and blood banks functioning in various cities of the country, it would facilitate the availability of pulmonary and aortic valves for use in cardiac surgery. Established under the guidance of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, known the world over for free medical treatment, the proposed bank would offer a reprieve to economically backward patients, who develop heart valve problems as well as a large number of hapless children, who have congenital heart conditions such as abnormal valves or missing valves.

Diseases and congenital abnormalities can lead to defective valve function and cardiac insufficiency which need replacement of valves. Talking to this website’s newspaper here, institute director Dr.A.N.Safaya said the bank would become functional soon as part of the development works initiated on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the institute, which has earned wide reputation as a temple of healing.

According to Safaya, the hospital is planning to launch an awareness campaign among different segments of society about the need to donate heart valves. Heart valves, like many transplantable tissues, can be donated up to 24 hours after death. All the donated heart valves would be used to help people in need of heart valve replacement. Heart valve donors should generally be under 60 years of age and have no evidence of transmissible disease, infection or cancer.

As per the outline, the proposed bank would first procure human hearts from suitable donors after obtaining consent from the next of kin. Homograft technicians with the hospital will retrieve the pulmonary and aortic valves from the heart and disinfect them with an antibiotic solution. The valves are then placed in a cryopreservative solution and frozen to -140 degree centigrade in a controlled rate liquid nitrogen freezer.

The valves can be used during cardiac surgery at the Sathya Sai Hospital or in other cardiac centres in the country.

The hospital authorities hope accident hospitals can play a vital role in the collection of hearts which have intact valves. Such banks are needed in modern times as human allograft valves are better as mechanical valves often cause damage to elements of the blood, which means that patients must remain on anticoagulant therapy for the rest of the life.

Porcine valves are also not effective as they are prone to calcification within 5-7 years of replacement. As per medical experts, the human allograft valves combine good haemodynamic properties with durability and are often resistible to infection.

Then what can a donor do? “You can choose, while you are still alive, to donate your heart valves in the event of your death. The most important thing is that you talk to your family about the organ and tissue donation,” say experts.