The durability and functionality of a heparin coating on artificial heart valve leaflets were evaluated with X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and by the coatings' capacity to bind antithrombin. Current methods for accelerated life-time testing are based on exposing leaflets to water solutions. In this paper a method is explored, in which heart valve leaflets were exposed to a continuous high shear rate (4 L/min) of human citrated plasma. It was found that the heparin coating was stable and wear resistant enough to still be present after 3 weeks and to have about the same antithrombin uptake as coatings not exposed to circulating plasma. It was, however, partly destroyed by the test as found using XPS. We suggest that heparin chains from the upper layer of heparin have been torn off from the carrier chain, in combination with loss of heparin conjugate and plasma deposition in patches. This study showed that XPS provides additional information to biological measurements such as antithrombin uptake. XPS is therefore a valuable technique not only to characterize biomaterials but also to evaluate the effect of a performance test.