Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | For More Information
The heart contains valves that work together to ensure proper blood flow in and out of this vital organ. Valvular heart disease results when one of these one-way valves malfunctions. Faulty heart valve function most commonly occurs due to problems with the aortic or the mitral valves. Blocked aortic valves, also called aortic stenosis or narrowing, lead to limited blood flow. Mitral regurgitation, or a leaky heart valve, results in the backward flow of blood because the valve fails to completely close.
Some individuals may have a valve abnormality from birth (congenital) or develop a valve problem due to infection and inflammation. For most people, valve disease is acquired and develops over time. Patients most at risk for this type of heart disorder are usually over 70 years of age.
The NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute has assembled one of the best multidisciplinary teams in the nation to evaluate, treat and provide coordinated care for patients with structural heart disease. We have been leaders in the use of new, innovative treatments for heart valve conditions for many years. Our experienced cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons and cardiac rehabilitation specialists work as a team to develop individualized treatment plans for your care.
Common symptoms of valvular heart disease include:
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of feet and ankles
- Rapid weight gain
- Chest pain or palpitations
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
Dizziness or lightheadedness, if progressive, may put a patient at risk for passing out and serious harm.
In addition to these telltale signs of a heart valve condition, a physician might suspect heart valve disease if a murmur is detected during a routine physical exam. A heart murmur produces an abnormal sound caused by irregular blood flow as a result of a malfunctioning valve.
At the NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute, we take an integrated multispecialty approach to your care. Most patients with possible valvular heart disease will undergo an initial evaluation by one of our knowledgeable cardiologists. We will ask you about your medical history and conduct a physical exam. Patients will often undergo non-invasive tests, including EKGs and echocardiograms (ultrasound exams). We often employ exercise stress testing as another diagnostic tool.
Sometimes additional and more invasive testing to complete an evaluation may be required, including transesophageal echocardiography and cardiac catheterization.
Initial treatment of valvular heart disease often begins with managing the condition with medications. Maintenance care involves:
- Minimizing symptoms
- Protecting and slowing the deterioration of valve function
- Optimally determining the timing of more aggressive treatment
Traditional open heart surgery is the standard of care for the modification, repair or replacement of heart valves. Our highly skilled cardiothoracic surgeons have vast experience repairing and/or replacing aortic and mitral valves. They work closely with our cardiologists to determine the best course of action for your particular valve condition.
For patients who are too sick or at high risk for surgery, the NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute offers innovative minimally invasive catheter-based techniques that are at the forefront of valve care. In addition to providing transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) for severe aortic stenosis, our internationally renowned interventional cardiology team has pioneered a new treatment for patients with mitral regurgitation or leaky heart valves. The procedure involves inserting via catheter a device known as the MitraClip to repair the valve. Recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, this novel device therapy has proven successful and offers much promise for patients who otherwise have few options. It also opens the door to the further advancement of nonsurgical techniques for treating heart valve disease. In 2003, NorthShore was the first medical center in the country to perform mitral valve repair using the MitraClip.
For More Information
Please call 847.570.2250 for more information on valvular heart disease or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.