Back on the Court with his On-X Heart Valve
After going through one heart valve surgery and facing another, Mike Aronson wondered if he might be done playing tennis for good. His first valve replacement was a tissue valve, which failed after only seven years.
Luckily, for the second surgery, he chose an On-X Aortic Valve, and he has not slowed down a bit. Mike is a competitive athlete and professional tennis instructor and works for an athletic shoe company in a job that requires lots of traveling and heavy lifting.
“I’m quite active,” Mike said. “I always have been. I play competitive tennis four to five days a week, sometime six days a week – my wife will say seven days a week. I also train with a boxer, I ski, we hike, we travel a lot, play golf, and go out to eat. I do exactly the same things I did before my surgery.”
Mike was born with a bicuspid valve which led to aortic stenosis. Throughout most of his life, however, there were no negative effects and no restrictions on his athletic activities. He grew up playing tennis, soccer, running track and played several sports in college. He became a certified tennis pro in 1992.
He was always told he would eventually have to address the issue of his aortic stenosis, probably at some point in his 40s. Sure enough, at age 46 he had his first heart valve replacement surgery, receiving a porcine tissue valve.
“I was told that [his tissue valve] would last between 12 and 15 years,” Mike said. “Unfortunately it only lasted 7 years. My valve ripped.”
On-X Valves Durability Reduces Risk of Reoperation
In April 2016, Mike experienced very unusual noises while lying down, so he called his doctor in the morning and was told to drive himself to the hospital. He learned that his failed tissue valve had ripped and would have to be replaced immediately.
Mike was unprepared for the possibility of having a second heart valve replacement surgery. He began researching his options from the hospital, deciding whether he should choose another tissue valve or a mechanical valve.
One option Mike considered was a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) Valve in Valve (VIV) procedure, an aortic valve replacement procedure in which a new tissue valve is placed inside the failing tissue valve.
“In my research, the Valve in Valve, even though it was [less] invasive, which sounded very attractive at the time, was basically just a “Band-Aid” and that [with a VIV procedure] I would absolutely have to have another surgery probably in the near future,” Mike said.
Mike said he was concerned that there was not a lot of data showing how long a VIV would last for a person of his relatively young age. Additionally, he discovered that with the VIV procedure, valve size is an important consideration, and by placing a tissue valve inside of an already small valve, blood flow could be restricted, which could severely alter his active lifestyle.
“My valve was 21mm in size. If I had to do a Valve in Valve, it was going to be much smaller than that. So, if the valve size is not large enough, we do not have adequate blood flow, which will make you fatigued and tired. And in my lifestyle that just wasn’t an option” he said.
TAVR VIV is neither a long-term proven therapy, nor a reasonable option for the majority of tissue valve patients due to the size of their existing valve1 being too small, and as a result, restricting blood flow.2,3
Mike’s primary concerns were that he wanted to maintain his active lifestyle, and especially, that he did not want to go through another valve replacement surgery.
“The main reason I decided to go with the On-X Valve versus a tissue valve was I did not want to go through a third surgery,” Mike said. “One surgery was a lot, two surgeries were too many – three surgeries I just didn’t want to have. So the decision was quite easy to go with the On-X Valve. I decided to go with the On-X Valve which, the odds are, is going to last me a lifetime.”
Blood Thinners No Big Deal
Another concern for Mike, regarding mechanical heart valves, was taking blood thinners. Since receiving the On-X Valve, Mike has found taking blood thinner is not a problem.
“With my On-X Valve I do have to take a blood thinner, which is very simple,” he said. “I take it every day. I monitor it once a week, sometimes twice a week… I have a whole monitoring system which is very simple to use. It’s a lot easier than I thought it was going to be.”
Mike said that even taking an anticoagulant, he can maintain his active lifestyle, as long as he is consistent about his diet.
“Taking a blood thinner, it really is no big deal. In my line of work and with my traveling, I’m on the road a lot. You can live your lifestyle; you can do whatever you want to do as long as you do it consistently. If you want to have a beer occasionally it’s not a problem, you just balance it out, and it hasn’t affected me at all.”
Since receiving his On-X Valve, Mike has returned to his active lifestyle without missing a beat. He continues to participate in sports. A year after his valve replacement surgery, he qualified to compete in tennis in the 2017 Maccabiah Games held every four years in Israel, and brought home a bronze medal.
Mike believes one of the greatest advantages of the On-X Valve is that it gives heart valve replacement patients a good shot at having one surgery that will last a lifetime.
“There’s nothing like doing surgery once and getting it done,” Mike said. “If I were talking to another patient facing this huge decision, about which kind of valve to go with, I would tell them to weigh out the options. At the end of the day, if they’re younger, if they’re active, if you do not want to go through a second surgery, then the On-X Valve is the way to go.”
- Nishimura R et al., Circulation. 2017;135:e1159-95.
- Dvir D et al., JAMA. 2014;312(2):162-70.
- IMS US Sales Report, Q4, 2010 to Q3, 2016. Perimount models 2700, 2800, and 3300. Report run by CryoLife Marketing, 04/10/2017. Data on file.