Heart valve disease occurs if one or more of your heart valves don't work well. The heart has four valves: the aortic, mitral, tricuspid and pulmonary valves. The heart valves open to allow blood to be pumped forward, and they close to prevent blood from leaking backward. Heart valves are flaps of tissue called leaflets or cusps.Heart valve problems can fall into two categories. Stenosis is when the opening of the valve is too narrow and interferes with the forward flow of blood. Regurgitation is when the valve doesn’t close properly and it leaks, causing a backflow of blood.
A Damaged Heart Valve is Like a Broken Doorway.
If you’re like most people, you’re not generally thinking about your heart, much less the valves within it. Not, at least, until they start giving you trouble. Here’s a quick primer from the experts at St. Luke’s University Health Network on what your heart valves do, why they’re important, and how they’re fixed, if it becomes necessary.... Read more.
The Top Five Questions to Ask Your Cardiologist.
Perhaps you’re going to the cardiologist because your physician recommended it. Or maybe you have a family history of heart disease, and you want to stay on top of it. Or you have high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, or both... Read more.
Key Question to Ask About Heart Valve Repair.
You’ve been told that one of the valves in your heart needs to be repaired. It isn’t doing the work it should, opening and closing to allow blood in and out of the four chambers of the heart. Your options for repair, depend on the severity of your condition and your general health… Read more.
If you have undergone treatment for the repair or replacement of a valve, your doctor will encourage you to follow steps to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In addition:
- Attend cardiac rehabilitation, when appropriate
- Follow your physician’s medication management and inform your doctor of any changes to your sleep, appetite, or weight
Treatment for heart valve disease depends on the type and severity. At times, no immediate treatment may be needed. Medications may control symptoms but they cannot cure valve disease. If conditions worsen or become hard to control, catheter-based treatment or open-heart surgery may be needed to repair or replace the diseased valve(s). These procedures include:
- Valve repair that preserves the patientsown valve and leaflets.Repairs may sometimes be done through a catheter-based technique (through the groin artery) or require minimal surgery procedure (through a small incision) or more extensive surgery. Repair is most often possible for mitral valve regurgitation and tricuspid valve regurgitation.
- Valve replacement which may be done through a cather-based or a surgical approach. For the catheter-based technique, a new (prosthetic) aortic valve can be placed within the patients old and diseased aortic valve. Valves can also be replaced through minimally invasive or more invasive surgical approaches.
Diagnostic testing and procedures are the first step in establishing a treatment strategy. Doctors can take a careful history and listen for distinct sounds of valve disease with a stethoscope. In addition, other tests may be ordered. They include:
- Chest x-ray
- Electrocardiogram (EKG) at rest
- Ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the heart
- Computed tomography (CT scan) of the heart
- Coronary angiography (heart catheterization)
- Nuclear scan of the heart