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Your heart is a hollow organ with tough, muscular walls. About the size of a fist, it contracts rhythmically to pump blood to the lungs for oxygen before pumping it throughout the rest of your body. The heart is divided into two sides, and each side is divided into upper and lower chambers. Valves inside these chambers prevent blood from flowing backwards.
Heart valve transplants are very common in children who are born with defective hearts. Each year, about two-thirds of patients who need new heart valves are children less than 15 years old. Human heart valves are better than artificial valves, which often require a patient to take extra drugs to prevent blood clotting. Heart valve transplantation has been successfully done for more than 30 years.
If a donated heart is not suitable for transplantation, its valves may still be used. After the heart has been removed in an operating room, it is dissected and the valves are removed. The valves are frozen so they can be stored for use at a later time. During the transplant surgery, the recipient's diseased valves are removed, and the donated valves are inserted in their place.