• Diagnosing Heart Valve Problems

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    Heart Model with ValvesIf your doctor suspects that you have a heart valve problem, he or she will want to examine you further and possibly refer you to a cardiologist. To make the diagnosis, your doctor will do the following:

    • Examine you. Your doctor can learn a lot about your valve problem by listening to your heart, discussing your symptoms, and checking your vital signs. Learn more…
    • Recommend tests. Testing is used to confirm your doctor’s preliminary diagnosis and to continue monitoring and tracking the development of the valve problem. Learn more…

    You can contribute to the accuracy of your diagnosis by sharing as much information as possible about your symptoms and asking the right questions. Click here for Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Heart Valve Disease.

  • More about Heart Valve Problems

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    Heart Valve Problems

    In a normally functioning heart, four valves regulate blood flow so that blood travels through the heart in one direction and at the right rate. When something goes wrong with one of these valves, the heart and rest of the body do not get proper amounts of oxygen and nutrients, and pressure can build up within the heart. A person with a faulty heart valve may experience fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, or other symptoms - or no symptoms at all.

    Heart Valve Treatments

    New treatments for heart valve problems are always being developed. Several promising treatments are currently in the investigational stage but have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    Medications and Lifestyle Changes for Heart Valve Problems

    If you have a heart valve problem you can take steps in your daily life to minimize more problems in the future. Talk with your doctor to develop a plan for staying well that is tailored to your condition.

    MitraClip and Treating the Mitral Valve

    Researchers are also exploring two catheter-based approaches to repair the mitral valve. One innovative, less-invasive procedure for heart valve repair is called the MitraClip.

    Mitral Valve Regurgitation: Treating a Leaky Valve

    We all know that having a heart is critical to our survival, but have you ever stopped to think why? It’s because the heart pumps blood throughout the body—blood rich with the oxygen and nutrients that our bodies need to function. The heart has four valves that keep the blood flowing on a one-way path to where it needs to go. If a valve doesn’t close properly, blood can leak back into the heart, which is called regurgitation. The mitral valve is especially susceptible to this problem. If the leak is minor, you might never know it because the valve can still accomplish its job. But if the leaking becomes severe, the heart muscle has to work much harder to pump more blood, putting your heart and you at great risk.

    Physical Examination for Valve Disease

    Your family doctor or internist may be the first to suspect that you have a heart valve condition. He or she may detect a heart murmur while listening to your heartbeat through a stethoscope. A heart murmur is an extra or unusual sound heard when the heart beats. A murmur can be faint or it can create a noticeable whooshing noise. Heart murmurs are common - and most do not indicate a problem.

    Protecting Yourself from Endocarditis

    Endocardits is a very serious infection of the valves of the heart caused by bacteria or fungi. It doesn’t occur often, but when it does, it can cause serious damage to your valves and put your life at risk.

    Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Heart Valve Disease

    Use the following questions as a tool to help you talk to your physician about your heart valve disease. Print them out and take them with you to your next appointment. Take notes to help you remember your discussion when you get home.

    Resources and Support for People with Heart Valve Problems

    The following resources are provided to help you gather as much information as possible to understand your valve problem and your options for treatment.

    Surgery for Valve Problems

    If you have open-heart surgery to repair or replace a valve, you will receive a general anesthetic and your heart surgeon will make an incision the length of your breast bone to expose your heart. You will be connected to a heart-lung machine, which will take over your breathing and blood circulation during the surgery. The surgeon will stop your heart, make an incision to expose the valve, and either repair it or replace it by cutting out the old valve and sewing in the new one. Once this is complete, your breast bone will be sutured back together.

    Symptoms of Heart Valve Problems

    If you have heart valve disease, you may have no warning signs. Additionally, heart valve symptoms are not a reliable indicator of how serious your condition may be. You may have no symptoms but need prompt treatment. Or you may have severe symptoms, but your valve problem may be minor.

    Testing for Valve Disease

    Tests may be ordered to determine if your heart is working as it should. The following diagnostic tests are among those used to detect heart valve disease...

    Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)

    Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), is a new procedure that was recently approved for some patients. It is used to replace a patient’s aortic heart valve without open-heart surgery. Instead of opening the chest, a flexible tube called a catheter is used to access the faulty valve.

    Types and Causes of Heart Valve Problems

    Your heart’s valves are an essential feature of its structure because they regulate the direction and flow of the blood that replenishes the oxygen supply throughout your body.

    Valve Repair or Replacement

    Depending on the nature and severity of your valve disease, your cardiologist may recommend one of the following procedures to repair or replace the problem valve...

    Valvuloplasty for Heart Valve Problems

    Valvuloplasty is a non-surgical procedure that can be used to open a heart valve that has narrowed. Valvuloplasty can be used on the mitral, aortic, or pulmonic valve.