Your heart has four heart valves (aortic, mitral, tricuspid, and pulmonary) that have specific functions they must perform to maintain proper blood flow. Two valves – one-way inlet and one-way outlet – are located in each ventricle (lower chamber of the heart). At the same time, the aortic valve and pulmonary valve open, allowing blood to pump out of the heart. When blood accumulates in the upper chamber, these valves open, allowing blood to flow into the heart’s lower chamber. The lower chambers pump blood into the pulmonary and aortic valves when the lower chambers contract.
At Cardiology Associates of South Florida, we use enhanced cardiac imaging to diagnose and assess valve health. In addition, we use diagnostic tests for diagnosing heart disease and a better understanding of heart valve leaks and other concerns.
In many patients, valvular heart disease affects multiple valves, not just one. Some people may suffer from mitral valve prolapse, a valve disease in which the valve leaflets and cords are irregular and cannot close properly. The mitral valve has two leaflets placed on the left by the tendon ligaments that help it open and close.
Over time, heart valve disease can worsen and cause heart failure or other life-threatening conditions, cause permanent damage to the heart, and even lead to sudden death.
Some people with heart valve disease may not have any symptoms, while others may experience conditions such as stroke, heart attacks, and blood clots if the heart valve disease is left untreated. Certain heart valve diseases, such as aortic or mitral stenosis, can cause dizziness or fainting. However, a heart murmur is the most common sign a doctor sees, indicating that there may be a problem with the valve.
The valve can usually function for years without causing symptoms, so bicuspid aortic valve disease is often not diagnosed until adulthood.
Certain valve diseases, such as aortic valve stenosis or mitral regurgitation can be treated with non-surgical methods. Open heart surgery is necessary for more complex valves when simple balloon expansion is insufficient. Many valve procedures can also be performed through minimally invasive incisions.
Examples of heart valve repair surgeries include remodeling abnormal valve tissue to make the valve function properly or placing prosthetic rings to compress a dilated valve.
Treatments can include heart valve replacement and transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), an alternative to surgery, and medication. Treatment usually relieves the symptoms.
Many patients benefit from a minimally invasive valve replacement surgery called TAVR. Others may need medication to prevent fluid accumulation, while others may need valve repair or replacement. However, lifestyle changes and medications can alleviate many of the symptoms and problems associated with heart valve disease.