BSIP, RAGUET H / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY BSIP, RAGUET H / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Heart valve replacement surgery. Surgeons' hands holding wires attached to an artificial valve (centre) during an operation to replace a patient's defective heart valve. 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, leading to shortness of breath and chest pain. The condition may cause a heart attack in some cases. Replacement valves can either be artificial, as here, or from donors or even from other animals, usually a pig. During a valve replacement, the heart is stopped and its function taken over by a heart-lung machine.
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