Heart Valve Disease

What is Heart Valve Disease?

The heart is divided into four main areas, or chambers – two upper chambers (called the left and right atrium) and two lower chambers (called the left and right ventricle). There are four valves that control the flow of blood through your heart. They are called the aortic, mitral, pulmonary, and tricuspid valves, and each is made of flaps of tissue called leaflets.

Each time your heart beats, it pumps blood through these valves by contracting (squeezing) its chambers. These valves open in one direction, like one-way gates, allowing blood to flow forward. In between beats, the heart’s chambers quickly relax, and its valves close, preventing blood from flowing backward. There are two common problems that can develop in heart valves:

  • When your valve is narrowed and does not completely open because of things like a build-up of calcium (mineral deposits), high cholesterol (a waxy fat), age, or genetics (such as a birth defect), this is called stenosis.
  • When your valve does not fully close and allows blood to leak backwards through the valve, this is called regurgitation.

With either problem, your heart needs to work harder and may not pump enough oxygen-rich blood to your body.

Risk Factors for Heart Valve Disease

Guidelines on management of valvular heart disease reinforce that optimal treatment should begin well before signs and symptoms become severe and in some cases when patients have no symptoms.

Risk Factors Include: 

  • Murmur
  • Age > 65
  • History of rheumatic fever
  • Known bicuspid valve or mitral valve prolapse
  • Congenital heart disorders
  • Family history of heart valve disorders
  • Valve damage as a result of chemical agents (i.e. Phen Fen)
  • History of endocarditis
  • Hypertension
  • History of autoimmune disorders

Heart Valve Disease Symptoms and Detection

Some symptoms that may indicate heart valve disease include:

  • Shortness of breath, especially when you exert yourself or when you're lying down
  • Unusual fatigue
  • History of rheumatic fever
  • Swelling in your ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, or neck
  • Symptoms can range from mild to none at all and do not always indicate the seriousness of heart valve disease

Heart Valve Disease Treatment

Medical technology and techniques are constantly evolving, particularly in terms of diagnosis and treatment for cardiovascular heart and valve disorders. Our team of physicians and surgeons perform the latest in leading-edge diagnosis and treatment options:

  • Coronary artery bypass grafting
  • Conventional open heart surgery
  • Minimally invasive open heart surgery
  • Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)
  • Maze procedure for atrial fibrillation
  • Complex aortic reconstruction surgery

Next Steps with MyChart

Discover MyChart, a free patient portal that combines your Baptist Health medical records into one location. Schedule appointments, review lab results, financials, and more! If you have questions, give us a call.