OBJECTIVE: To compare the long-term clinical outcome of patients who underwent aortic valve replacement with St. Jude Medical and Medtronic-Hall mechanical prostheses. DESIGN: From June 1978 to June 1982, 43 Medtronic-Hall and 48 St. Jude Medical mechanical valves were implanted in 90 consecutive patients with aortic valve disease, and their clinical outcome was retrospectively assessed. RESULTS: At 20 years in the St. Jude Medical group and in the Medtronic-Hall group the actuarial rates of overall survival were 50 and 49% (p = NS), of cardiovascular survival 66 and 63% (p = NS), of valve-related survival 95 and 91% (p = NS), of freedom from major valve-related complications 83 and 45% (p = 0.005), from major cerebrovascular events 93 and 71% (p =0.06), from valve thrombosis 97 and 89% (p = NS), from aortic valve reoperation 93 and 88% (p = NS), from major bleeding 96 and 82% (p = 0.04), and from endocarditis 93 and 82% (p = NS), respectively. The linearized rate of overall major aortic valve prosthesis-related complications was 3.47%/year in the Medtronic-Hall valve group and 1.53%/year in the St. Jude Medical valve group (p = 0.003). Multivariate analysis showed that the type of prosthesis was predictive of freedom from valve-related complications (p = 0.01; 2.849; C.I. 95%: 1.246-6.516). CONCLUSION: The aortic St. Jude Medical mechanical valve seems to be associated with a slightly lower rate of long-term valve-related morbidity than the aortic Medtronic-Hall mechanical valve. Because of the small patient population and the retrospective nature of the study, the choice between these two prostheses should not be made only on the basis of these findings. However, these results suggest a reappraisal for further comparative studies with such an extended follow-up.