The Ross procedure is a surgical treatment for a diseased aortic valve. One of the heart's four valves, the aortic valve controls the flow of oxygen-rich blood out to the body. If the valve becomes narrowed, a condition known as aortic stenosis, the heart has to work harder to pump, causing the muscle to thicken and potentially leading to heart failure. If the aortic valve becomes leaky, a condition known as valve regurgitation, blood can back up into the heart, which also can eventually cause heart failure.

The standard treatment for either condition is to replace the faulty valve with a prosthetic one that is either mechanical (made from a durable material, such as titanium) or made from animal tissue. But neither is a perfect solution. Tissue valves wear out and have to be replaced, while mechanical valves are prone to blood clots, which means patients with them have to take blood-thinning medications for the rest of their lives.

The Ross procedure provides another option. The surgeon replaces the diseased valve with another of the patient's own heart valves, the pulmonary valve. The swap works because the pulmonary valve is similarly shaped and can become thick and strong enough to function like an aortic valve. The pulmonary valve, in turn, is replaced with a valve from a cadaver donor.