An 81-year-old woman from Hyderabad, India, owes her life to the surgeons who used a heart valve made from cow's heart to save her. The breakthrough surgery took place at the Frontier Lifeline Hospitals in Chennai.

The woman, who had already undergone a valve replacement surgery 11 years back, was diagnosed with a narrowed aortic valve in 2015 by the doctors when she started to show the symptoms of an underlying heart problem. 

"She came to us in April with complaints of severe breathlessness and repeated hospital admissions. Tests showed that her replaced aortic valve was narrow," said Dr. R Anantharaman at the Frontier Lifeline Hospitals, the surgeon who performed the operation.

Considering the age and health of the woman, the doctors decided not to use conventional open heart surgery to replace the valve. Instead, they opted for a minimally-invasive procedure in which they inserted a bio-prosthetic valve in the woman through the big artery present in the groin region.

The replacement bio-prosthetic valve was made from the heart tissue of the cow. The valve was inserted through the groin with the help of a catheter. The doctors say the replacing the valve was extremely risky, since the patient had already undergone a valve replacement surgery and treatment for breast cancer. 

"Usually when we are replacing a native valve, we simply remove the old valve and put in a new one. But in her case, we just placed the new valve inside the old one," explained Anantharaman in a statement.

According to an earlier report released by the University of Texas, the practice of using an animal organ for life-saving human treatment is called as xenotransplantation. The report further added that no success using this practice has been achieved so far in saving the lives of the humans.