The safety and in vitro effectiveness of applying silver to polyethylene terephthalate fabric mechanical heart valve (MHV) sewing cuffs for the prevention of prosthetic valve endocarditis (PVE) were evaluated. PVE is an infrequent but grave complication of cardiac surgery associated with mortality rates potentially exceeding 50%. A poor response to antibiotic therapy is partly responsible for the high mortality rates. Silver is a well known antimicrobial agent with broad effectiveness. Preliminary in vitro microbial challenge studies of the coated fabric using the New York State 63 bacteriostatic test and Dow Corning Shake Flask test showed a > or = 97% reduction for most organisms tested. Sheep mitral valve replacement studies suggest comparable tissue ingrowth of uncoated and coated fabric with a more organized, thinner pannus formed on silver coated fabric. Low levels of silver were present in the serum at all time periods. These results indicate MHVs with silver coated cuffs may provide additional protection against PVE.