Learn about this condition in which one or more of your heart valves doesn't work properly.
In heart valve disease, one or more of the valves in your heart doesn't work properly.
Your heart has four valves that keep blood flowing in the correct direction. In some cases, one or more of the valves don't open or close properly. This can cause the blood flow through your heart to your body to be disrupted.
Your heart valve disease treatment depends on the heart valve affected and the type and severity of the disease. Sometimes heart valve disease requires surgery to repair or replace the heart valve.
Some people with heart valve disease might not have symptoms for many years. When signs and symptoms occur, they might include:
If you have symptoms that might suggest heart valve disease, see your doctor. If you have a heart murmur, your doctor might suggest that you see a cardiologist.
The four heart valves, which keep blood flowing in the right direction, are the mitral, tricuspid, pulmonary and aortic valves. Each valve has flaps (leaflets) that open and close once per heartbeat. If one or more of the valves fail to open or close properly, the blood flow through your heart to your body is disrupted.
Heart valve disease may be present at birth (congenital). It can also occur in adults due to many causes and conditions, such as infections and other heart conditions.
Heart valve problems include:
Several factors can increase your risk of heart valve disease, including:
Heart valve disease can cause many complications, including:
Your doctor will conduct a physical examination and listen for a heart murmur, a possible sign of a heart valve condition. You might have several tests to diagnose your condition.
Tests might include:
Echocardiography. Sound waves directed at your heart from a wandlike device (transducer) produce video images of your heart in motion. This test assesses the structure of your heart, the heart valves and the blood flow through your heart. An echocardiogram helps your doctor get a close look at the heart valves and how well they're working. Doctors may also use a 3D echocardiogram.
In another type of echocardiogram called a transesophageal echocardiogram, a small transducer attached to the end of a tube is inserted down the tube leading from your mouth to your stomach (esophagus). This test helps your doctor get a closer look at the heart valves than is possible with a regular echocardiogram.
Cardiac catheterization. This test isn't often used to diagnose heart valve disease, but it may be used if other tests aren't able to diagnose the condition or to determine its severity.
A doctor threads a thin tube (catheter) through a blood vessel in your arm or groin, guides it to an artery in your heart and injects dye through the catheter to make the artery visible on an X-ray. This provides your doctor with a detailed picture of your heart arteries and how your heart functions. It can also measure the pressure inside the heart chambers.
Heart valve disease treatment depends on your symptoms, the severity of the condition, and whether your condition is worsening.
A doctor trained in heart disease (cardiologist) will provide your care. Treatment might include monitoring your condition with regular follow-up visits. You might be asked to:
You might eventually need heart valve surgery to repair or replace the diseased heart valve even if you don't have symptoms. If you need surgery for another heart condition, your doctor might repair or replace the diseased valve at the same time.
Heart valve surgery is usually performed through a cut (incision) in the chest. Doctors sometimes do minimally invasive heart surgery, which involves smaller incisions than those made for open-heart surgery. In some medical centers, doctors perform robot-assisted heart surgery, a type of minimally invasive heart surgery in which surgeons use robotic instruments to conduct the procedure.
Surgery options include valve repair or replacement.
Your doctor might recommend heart valve repair to preserve your heart valve. To repair a heart valve, surgeons might:
Surgeons often tighten or reinforce the ring around a valve (annulus) by implanting an artificial ring. In some cases, doctors use less invasive procedures to repair certain valves using long, thin tubes (catheters). These procedures can involve the use of clips, plugs or other devices.
If the valve can't be repaired, surgeons might remove the damaged valve and replace it with a mechanical valve or a valve made from cow, pig or human heart tissue (biological or tissue valve).
If you had valve replacement with a mechanical valve, you'll need to take blood thinners for the rest of your life to prevent blood clots. Biological tissue valves break down over time and usually need to be replaced.
A minimally invasive procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) may be used to replace a damaged aortic valve. In this procedure, the doctor inserts a long, thin tube (catheter) into an artery in your leg or chest and guides it to the heart valve. A replacement valve is moved through this catheter to the correct position.
You'll have regular follow-up appointments with your doctor to monitor your condition.
It's a good idea to make several heart-healthy lifestyle changes, including:
For women with heart valve disease, talk with your doctor before you become pregnant. Your doctor can discuss with you which medications you can safely take, and whether you need a procedure to treat your valve condition before pregnancy.
You'll likely require close monitoring by your doctor during pregnancy. If you have a severe valve condition, your doctor might recommend against pregnancy to reduce the risk of complications.
If you have heart valve disease, here are some steps that may help you cope:
If you think you have heart valve disease, make an appointment to see your doctor. Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment.
For heart valve disease, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:
November 10th, 2021