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Valvular Heart Disease

Keep your heart’s blood flowing properly.

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Continue to live well with expert guidance.

Heart valves act like doors separating the four chambers (sections) of your heart. With each beat of your heart, they open and close to allow blood to flow at the right time and in the right direction. Over time, the valves can become damaged or worn. The St. Luke’s team will work to find a treatment plan that ensures you live a long, healthy life.


Four valves control the flow of blood in the heart. The opening and closing create the sound of your heartbeat. The first sound, the lub, happens when the mitral and tricuspid valves close while the dub happens when the aortic and pulmonary valves close after the blood has been squeezed out of the heart.

Valvular disease occurs when any one valve fails to function properly because of damage or disease. Diseased valves "leak" when they don't close completely; this is called regurgitation. When this happens, blood can seep back into the chamber it came from, preventing enough blood from being pushed forward. Stenosis, another common type of heart valve condition, occurs when the valve's opening is narrow and stiff and doesn't open fully when blood is trying to pass through. Valvular disease can lead to heart failure, sudden cardiac arrest and death.

Conditions we treat

Aortic stenosis

A common and serious valve disease problem, aortic stenosis is the narrowing of the flaps (leaflets) of the aortic valve through which blood passes when it leaves the heart. As the condition worsens, it can cause shortness of breath, lightheadedness and weakness. Causes include age, calcium deposits, medication, radiation therapy and a history of rheumatic fever or high cholesterol.

There are two main types of aortic stenosis:

  • Congenital aortic stenosis occurs in people born with a narrowed aortic valve, or a valve with two leaflets versus three, but symptoms may not occur until later in life.
  • Acquired aortic stenosis develops with age as calcium builds up on the edges of the flaps, causing them to fuse together. This may occur in people who have had rheumatic fever or as part of the aging process.


Endocarditis is a life-threatening inflammation of the heart's valves and chambers' inner lining (endocardium), usually caused by an infection. Bacteria, fungi or other germs get into the bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in the heart. Artificial or damaged heart valves or other heart defects make you more susceptible to developing endocarditis. Endocarditis can damage or destroy the heart valves without treatment such as medication or surgery.

Heart murmur

A heart murmur is the sound of blood flowing through the heart, due to anything from healthy heart exertion during exercise to a diseased heart valve or other abnormality. A heart murmur can have causes unrelated to underlying disease.

We’ve been recognized.

St. Luke’s has earned Chest Pain Center Accreditation from the American College of Cardiology. This prestigious recognition signifies our commitment to rapidly diagnosing and treating heart attacks, minimizing damage to the heart muscle. In offering the latest technology for the care and treatment of cardiac patients across our campuses, this accreditation positions St. Luke's as a leader in the Lehigh Valley's cardiac care.

The following campuses are recognized for Primary PCI:
Allentown Campus | Bethlehem Campus | Monroe Campus

The following campuses have accreditation as chest pain centers:
Carbon Campus | Geisinger St. Luke’s Campus | Miners Campus

ACC Accreditation Services | American College of Cardiology


Aortic valve replacement

Aortic valve replacement is often needed to treat aortic valve stenosis. In aortic valve replacement, your surgeon removes the damaged valve and replaces it with a mechanical valve or a valve made from cow, pig or human heart tissue (biological tissue valve).

Biological tissue valves degenerate over time and may eventually need to be replaced. People with mechanical valves will need to take blood-thinning medications for life to prevent blood clots. Your doctor will discuss the benefits and risks of each valve type and which is most appropriate for you.

Balloon valvuloplasty

Balloon valvuloplasty (also called a valvotomy) is a minimally invasive procedure to repair a heart valve with a narrowed opening and improve blood flow through the heart. A valvuplasty may improve symptoms of heart valve disease, such as shortness of breath or chest pain.

Transcatheter aorticvalve replacement (TAVR)

A less invasive procedure option called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) to used to replace a narrowed aortic valve. TAVR may be an option for people who are considered to be at a greater risk of complications from surgical aortic valve replacement.

In TAVR, doctors insert a thin tube called a catheter in your leg or chest and guide it to your heart. A replacement valve is then inserted through the catheter and guided to your heart. When the valve is implanted, doctors remove the catheter from your blood vessel.

Transcatheter mitral valve replacement (TMVR)

Transcatheter mitral valve replacement (TMVR) is a less invasive alternative than open heart surgery to replace the mitral valve in your heart. In TMVR, your physician implants a manufactured (human-made) valve or one made from cow, pig or human biological heart tissue in the position of the old valve. The new valve takes over the work of the defective one.

Valve surgery

Heart valve surgery is a procedure to treat heart valve disease, which occurs when at least one of the four heart valves is not working correctly. The valves have flaps, called leaflets, that open and close with each heartbeat to keep blood flowing in the same direction. In heart valve surgery, a surgeon repairs or replaces the damaged or diseased heart valve or valves. The type of surgery depends on age, overall health, and the type and severity of heart valve disease.

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Your recovery starts here.

If you’re experiencing heart concerns, let us help. Connect with a St. Luke’s cardiac specialist and start your path to recovery.