ZEPHYR / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ZEPHYR / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Prosthetic heart valve. Frontal X-ray of a 46-year-old patient's chest. The prosthetic heart valve is seen as a small white arc at lower centre, with the stitches used to close the chest seen running down the centre. The heart valves prevent backflow of blood in the heart. If they start to fail, a condition known as incompetence, then the patient may not get enough oxygenated blood. The heart then becomes enlarged (cardiomegaly), as it is working much harder than normal. This leads to shortness of breath, chest pain and possibly a heart attack. The replacement valve here is artificial, but some can be from donors or even from other animals, usually a pig.
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