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Heart Valve Disease

Heart valves control the flow of blood between the heart chambers and between the left ventricle and the major artery that supplies the body's blood vessels with blood-containing oxygen.

Heart valve disease occurs when a valve(s) does not close completely, causing the blood to flow backward through the valve. Or, the valve opening may become narrow and limit the flow of blood out of the ventricles or atria. Some valve defects can be treated with medication, while others may be repaired or replaced surgically.

Types of Heart Valve Disease

Mitral Valve Prolapse

Mitral valve prolapse is the bulging of one or both of the mitral valve flaps into the left atrium during the contraction of the heart. One or both of the flaps may not close properly, allowing the blood to leak backward. This is called regurgitation and may result in a murmur or abnormal sound in the heart due to turbulent blood flow.

Mitral valve prolapse may not cause any symptoms; however, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may vary depending on the degree of prolapse present and may include palpitations and chest pains.

Depending on the severity of the leak into the left atrium during systole (mitral regurgitation), the left atrium and/or left ventricle may become enlarged, leading to symptoms of heart failure. These symptoms include weakness, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

Mitral Valve Stenosis

Often caused by a past history of rheumatic fever, this condition is characterized by a narrowing of the mitral valve opening, increasing resistance to blood flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle.

Aortic Valve Stenosis

This type of valve disease occurs primarily in the elderly and is characterized by a narrowing of the aortic valve opening, increasing resistance to blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta. Crozer Health now offers a procedure called TAVR to treat this specific condition.

Pulmonary Stenosis

This condition is characterized by a pulmonary valve that does not open sufficiently, causing the right ventricle to pump harder and enlarge.

Bicuspid Aortic Valve

This is a congenital birth defect characterized by an aortic valve that has only two flaps, instead of three. If the valve becomes narrowed, it is more difficult for the blood to flow through, and often the blood leaks backward. Symptoms usually do not develop until adulthood.

Diagnosing Heart Valve Disease

Heart valve disease may be suspected if the heart sounds heard through a stethoscope are abnormal. This is usually the first step in diagnosing a heart valve disease. A characteristic heart murmur (abnormal sounds in the heart due to turbulent blood flow across the valve) can often indicate valve regurgitation or stenosis.

To further define the type of valve disease and the extent of the valve damage, doctors may use any of the following diagnostic procedures:

Diagnosing Heart Valve Disease

Treating Heart Valve Disease

Treatments vary depending on the type of heart valve disease, and may include one, or a combination of, the following:

  • Medication: Medications are not a cure for heart valve disease, but in many cases are successful in the treatment of symptoms caused by heart valve disease.
  • Heart Valve Repair or Replacement: Heart valve repair or replacement surgery is a treatment option for valvular heart disease. When heart valves become damaged or diseased, they may not function properly.
    • TAVR: TAVR was developed specifically for the treatment of aortic valve stenosis. It involves the replacement of a diseased or malfunctioning aortic heart valve through a very small incision in the groin. More information on TAVR here.

Schedule an Appointment

To learn more about heart valve disease or request an appointment, please call 1-866-95-PULSE (1-866-957-8573) or request an appointment online.