The main benefit of a heart valve replacement made from pig, or porcine, tissue is the decreased risk of blood clots, which also makes the use of lifelong blood-thinning medication unnecessary, advises the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. Surgeons also can use bovine and mechanical valves as alternates.
Replacement human heart valves can be either mechanical in nature or constructed from animal valve tissue, usually from a pig or a cow, according to St. Jude Medical. Porcine and bovine cardiac tissue are both similar in function to human valve tissue, resulting in ideal blood flow and heart valve efficiency. The primary disadvantage of animal tissue heart valves is their limited durability. Tissue valves usually last between eight and 20 years depending on their location, meaning younger patients may have to get the valve replaced again.
Mechanical heart valves are constructed from synthetic materials such as pyrolytic carbon, states On-X Life Technologies, and their chief advantage is their durability; usually mechanical valves last the lifetime of the patient. The manufactured nature of this type of valve means blood clots may get trapped in the valve's flaps or hinges, causing an embolism or malfunction of the valve, so patients are usually required to be on blood-thinning medication for the rest of their lives, adds the American Heart Association.