What is required when shipping tissue valves for testing?

We’ve collected tips and information on shipping valves based on our experience both shipping tissue valves and receiving them for the lab:

Commercial Invoice:

  • A “Description of Goods” is required on the shipping forms. Label devices as “Engineering Prototype heart valve Samples, not for human use, not for sale”.
  • Filling out the shipping forms, it is best to give as much contact information as possible (landline telephone number, cellular phone number, email, etc.). This way, if there is an issue with the shipment, the shipping company can make contact easily.
  • Also on the forms, you will need to include how many items/valves you are sending and the unit price for each. This is for tax and duty purposes. We use the same value given when valves were shipped to us. Different manufacturers use different unit value.
  • There should also be a “Special Handling Instructions” section – this is where any notes about chemicals contained, fragility, temperature sensitivity, etc. would go. Shipping forms like Invoice and Air Waybills should include the amount of chemical fluid contained in each receptacle


  • Generally, samples are express-shipped. We try to plan for shipments to go out on a Monday or Tuesday, to avoid having the package sitting around in a warehouse over a weekend.
  • To clear customers a broker must be assigned. Most large carriers (FedEx and UPS) will have their own clearance teams who clear courier shipments through customs.
  • If there are any questions regarding the shipping process specifically, the shipping company should have some good information as well.

Valve Containers:

  • Valve container choice is important – Ideally something sturdy that will not leak or break. These containers can be further sealed and protected with bubble wrap, tape, foam, plastic baggies, etc. Any sort of extra cushioning and sealing is great. At this point, the wrapped and sealed containers can be packed in a box, with more foam to prevent jostling. Indicate which is the right way up on the box.
  • If valve container labels are not waterproof, they can be sealed over with clear packing tape. We have received shipments where the containers had leaked and paper labels were faded, damaged, and even falling off – Identifying the valves after that is very tricky!
  • Choose an appropriate storage fluid for shipping (typically dilute glutaraldehyde or 0.9% saline solution). Most shipping companies like an attached MSDS for any chemicals in a package and the shipping form description should identify such chemicals. It is also good practice to put an extra MSDS just inside the shipping box, so it’s the first thing people see when receiving the package. Make sure to put in enough fluid to fully cover the valves and then some – we have received samples that leaked and were no longer covered by fluid when they arrived.
  • Some valves come packed with shipping temperature indicators, if the samples are particularly temperature sensitive. They can also be packed in Styrofoam thermos’ with cold packs. That may be worth looking into for longer, over-seas shipments.
  • Using orientation labels which informs couriers/shipping companies that the package should not be tilted as the shipped items are contained in chemical fluids.



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