Neither heart valve repair methods nor current prostheses can accommodate patient growth. Normal aortic and pulmonary valves have 3 leaflets, and the goal of valve repair and replacement is typically to restore normal 3-leaflet morphology. However, mammalian venous valves have bileaflet morphology and open and close effectively over a wide range of vessel sizes. We propose that they might serve as a model for pediatric heart valve reconstruction and replacement valve design. We explore this concept using computer simulation.Methods:
We use a finite element method to simulate the ability of a reconstructed cardiac semilunar valve to close competently in a growing vessel, comparing a 3-leaflet design with a 2-leaflet design that mimics a venous valve. Three venous valve designs were simulated to begin to explore the parameter space.Results:
Simulations show that for an initial vessel diameter of 12 mm, the venous valve design remains competent as the vessel grows to 20 mm (67%), whereas the normal semilunar design remains competent only to 13 mm (8%). Simulations also suggested that systolic function, estimated as effective orifice area, was not detrimentally affected by the venous valve design, with all 3 venous valve designs exhibiting greater effective orifice area than the semilunar valve design at a given level of vessel growth.Conclusions:
Morphologic features of the venous valve design make it well suited for competent closure over a wide range of vessel sizes, suggesting its use as a model for semilunar valve reconstruction in the growing child.