Purpose: We have reconstructed aortic valves using autologous pericardium treated with glutaraldehyde since April 2007. However, the strength of the human pericardium has not been confirmed. We compared tensile strength between glutaraldehyde-treated human pericardium and aortic valve leaflets with various degrees of calcification to determine their suitability for use in aortic valve reconstruction. Methods: We measured the ultimate tensile strength and elasticity of samples of glutaraldehyde- treated pericardia (n = 8), non-calcified (n = 12), calcified (n = 9) and decalcified (n = 21) aortic leaflets collected from 23 patients who underwent aortic valve surgery. Aortic valves were decalcified using a cavitational ultrasonic surgical aspirator. The pericardium was immersed in 0.6% buffered glutaraldehyde for 10 minutes and then rinsed three times for 6 minutes each in normal saline. Results: The ultimate tensile strength of the glutaraldehyde-treated human pericardium, non-calcified, calcified and decalcified leaflets was 10, 2.8, 1.0 and 0.8 MPa, respectively. Conclusions: The ultimate tensile strength of glutaraldehyde-treated human pericardium was 4 times higher than non-calcified leaflets, indicating its suitability for application to aortic valve reconstruction. Calcified leaflets were slightly stronger than decalcified leaflets. Thus, calcification can be removed without altering the tensile strength of valve materials.
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