May 17, 2024

Long-lasting heart valves poised to set world record

Editor's Note

More than 45 years after surgery, Mary Ann Kozlowski’s mechanical heart valves are still pumping—and Guinness is reviewing an application to list her as the new world record-holder for longevity of a double-valve replacement.

That’s according to a May 15 report in the Erie-Times News, which detailed how then-20-year-old Kowalski underwent double heart valve surgery after contracting septicemia during an at-home childbirth. The surgeon, Dr. George D’Angelo—“a pioneer in cardiac surgery during his 40-year career at Hamot and Saint Vincent Hospital”—promised the valves would last 50 years, a milestone the Bjork Shiley mechanical valves have now passed (a surgeon quoted in the article calls these valves “revolutionary” for their time).

However, Kowalski hopes to have the valves removed soon in favor of a heart transplant. "The valves are fine, it's the rest of my heart that is failing," she told the Erie-Times News. "I was put on the transplant waiting list in December."

The fact that Kozlowski is healthy enough to be considered for a heart transplant 50 years after her double-valve replacement is a tribute to both Dr. D'Angelo and the Bjork Shiley valves, Ferdinand said.

"Today's valves are an improvement over the Bjork Shiley valves, but they were revolutionary at the time," Ferdinand said. "They were really a big step up from what was available."

According to the article, the previous Guinness world record is 31 years. Reviewing the application for Kozlowski’s potential new record will take 12 to 15 weeks.


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