Effective Orifice Area during Exercise in Bileaflet Mechanical Valve Prostheses

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The aims of this study were to investigate the evolution of the transprosthetic pressure gradient and effective orifice area (EOA) during dynamic bicycle exercise in bileaflet mechanical heart valves and to explore the relationship with exercise capacity.


Patients with bileaflet aortic valve replacement (n = 23) and mitral valve replacement (MVR; n = 16) prospectively underwent symptom-limited supine bicycle exercise testing with Doppler echocardiography and respiratory gas analysis. Transprosthetic flow rate, peak and mean transprosthetic gradient, EOA, and systolic pulmonary artery pressure were assessed at different stages of exercise.


EOA at rest, midexercise, and peak exercise was 1.66 ± 0.23, 1.56 ± 0.30, and 1.61 ± 0.28 cm2, respectively (P = .004), in aortic valve replacement patients and 1.40 ± 0.21, 1.46 ± 0.27, and 1.48 ± 0.25 cm2, respectively (P = .160), in MVR patients. During exercise, the mean transprosthetic gradient and the square of transprosthetic flow rate were strongly correlated (r = 0.65 [P < .001] and r = 0.84 [P < .001] for aortic valve replacement and MVR, respectively), conforming to fundamental hydraulic principles for fixed orifices. Indexed EOA at rest was correlated with exercise capacity in MVR patients only (Spearman ρ = 0.68, P = .004). In the latter group, systolic pulmonary artery pressures during exercise were strongly correlated with the peak transmitral gradient (ρ = 0.72, P < .001).


In bileaflet mechanical valve prostheses, there is no clinically relevant increase in EOA during dynamic exercise. Transprosthetic gradients during exercise closely adhere to the fundamental pressure-flow relationship. Indexed EOA at rest is a strong predictor of exercise capacity in MVR patients. This should be taken into account in therapeutic decision making and prosthesis selection in young and dynamic patients.

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