Heart Valve Disease

Heart valve disease is when one or more of the four valves in the heart aren’t opening and closing properly. Heart valve disease can be congenital, meaning it is present at birth. It can also develop later on in adult life as a result of other heart conditions and infections.

Types of heart valve disease

The heart has four valves: aortic valve, mitral valve, pulmonary valve and tricuspid valve. Each valve is supposed to open and close once each time the heart beats. Heart valve disease is when the valves are not opening or closing properly.

Heart valve problems:

  • Atresia: The valve isn’t fully formed and blood flow between chambers in the heart is blocked by a sheet of tissue.

  • Regurgitation: The valve doesn’t fully close, which causes blood to leak back into the heart.

  • Stenosis: The valves are thick and may become fused together. Blood flow is reduced because of the narrowed valve opening.

Heart Valve Disease Symptoms

Symptoms of heart valve disease

  • Dizziness & fainting

  • Fatigue

  • Swollen feet

  • Heart murmur

  • Irregular heartbeat

Some people with heart valve disease might not notice any symptoms for years. Heart valve disease can lead to other health complications, including blood clots, stroke, heart failure, heart rhythm abnormalities and death.

Heart Valve Disease Risks

Heart valve disease risk factors

Some people are born with heart valve disease. Other people develop the disease later in life. The following risk factors can increase the chances of developing heart valve disease:

  • Aging

  • Diabetes

  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol

  • History of heart attack or heart disease

  • History of heart infections

Heart Valve Disease Diagnosis

Heart valve disease diagnosis

The doctor will do a physical examination of the body and listen for a heart murmur. They will order several tests to diagnose the condition, which may include:

  • Cardiac catheterization

  • Cardiac MRI

  • Chest X-ray

  • Electrocardiogram

  • Exercise test

  • Stress test

Heart Valve Disease Treatments

Heart valve disease treatments

Treatment of heart valve disease depends on how the severe condition is and if symptoms are present. The doctor may suggest scheduling regular follow-up appointments to monitor the condition, as well as making healthy lifestyle changes and taking medicine to treat the symptoms.

Surgery is another treatment option. The two types of surgery are heart valve repair and heart valve replacement. When possible, the doctor will recommend heart valve repair and keep the patient’s original valve.

  • Heart valve repair: surgery may include separating valve flaps that are fused together, replacing cords attached to the valves, removing extra tissue in the valves, or patching holes in the valve. The surgeon may use an artificial ring around a valve to reinforce or tighten it.

Heart valve repair may be done using a thin tube to fix a valve with a narrow opening. The doctor inserts the tube with a balloon on the tip in the arm or groin, leading it to the valve. The balloon is inflated and opens the valve. At this point, the balloon is deflated and removed with the tube.

  • Heart valve replacement: the damaged valve is removed and replaced with either a mechanical valve or biological tissue valve (made of tissue from pig, cow or human heart).

     

TAVR stands for transcatheter aortic valve replacement. The minimally invasive surgery is to fix the damaged heart valve without removing it. A replacement heart valve is inserted into your damaged valve through a catheter. This full-functioning new valve takes over for the old valve. The TAVR often is performed on patients who are not suitable candidates for open heart procedures.

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