The present study reports on the incidence and degree of intravascular haemolysis in 33 patients with Björk-Shiley tilting disc prosthesis and in 34 patients with Lillehei-Kaster pivoting disc valve prosthesis in the mitral position examined 12 to 24 months after the operation. Serum haptoglobin, serum lactate dehydrogenase, serum bilirubin, and haemoglobin estimations were performed. Significant haemolysis was detected in 85 per cent of the patients. Haptoglobin was absent or reduced in 72 per cent, while raised values for serum lactate dehydrogenase were found in 43 per cent. The increase in lactate dehydrogenase was moderate and showed no correlation with blood flow through the prosthesis or with the gradient across the prosthesis. Most patients had normal haemoglobin and normal serum bilirubin values. Although intravascular haemolysis was of little clinical significance, the increase in lactate dehyrdrogenase was significantly higher in patients with the Lillehei-Kaster prosthesis than in patients with the Björk Shiley prosthesis, indicating a slightly shorter red cell lifespan in the former group. The possible reasons for the difference between the two groups are discussed.
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