90-year-old man gets new heart valve derived from cow tissue

The old Archie Dalton couldn't even take a few steps let alone walk up a flight of them. But just two weeks after a minimally invasive mitral valve replacement, the 90-year-old added years onto his life.

He has made progress thanks to the miracle of modern medicine. Doctors at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, Long Island, say Dalton essentially had a leaky valve, which caused blood to flow backward resulting in heart failure. If left untreated, it could be fatal.

While his age made him a high risk for conventional open-heart surgery, he was the perfect patient to participate in a worldwide trial to a have heart-valve replacement using a valve derived from the lining of a cow's heart.

"Open-heart surgery and valve replacements with time on the heart-lung machine can take an hour and a half," said Dr. Newell Robinson, the co-director of the Heart Valve Center. "The deployment itself took 30 seconds and his heart was beating the entire time."

According to the Heart Valve Society of America, more than 5 million people in the U.S. have moderate to severe valve disease and more than half of those people, 70 and older, have heart valve dysfunction.

Doctors say tissues from a cow or leaflets from a pig are most commonly used because they mimic the same tissues in a human heart. The procedure has been proven effective in early trials but is now being tested on a broader scale.

Dalton may be older but he is young at heart. He said he wants to spend more time with his five grandchildren.