What is heart valve disease?: Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment plans

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Heart valves play an important role in the circulation of blood throughout the body.

They open and close to control or regulate the blood flowing into and out of the heart. Heart valve disease affects four million people each year and is more common in older adults.

Weekend Extra welcomes Dr. Basel Ramlawi, chief of cardiothoracic surgery with the Lankenau Heart Institute, part of Main Line Health, for an overview on heart valve disease.

Dr. Ramlawi is a nationally renowned cardiac surgeon who specializes in caring for patients with complex aortic and valvular heart disease.

WHAT IS HEART VALVE DISEASE?

We think of the valves as being the "doors" between the heart chambers so that blood is flowing in the right direction. If those valves or doors become diseased, it occurs in two ways.
  • The valve can become narrowed or stenosed, and the valve is not able to open fully when blood is trying to pass through.
  • Or secondly, the valve can become leaky or regurgitant. So the blood is going backwards instead of forwards.
If the heart can't effectively pump blood throughout the body and it has to work harder to pump, this can lead to SHORTNESS OF BREATH, FATIGUE AND EVENTUALLY, LIFE-THREATENING heart failure, sudden cardiac arrest, and death

WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR VALVULAR HEART DIESASE?

We think of the valve disease as it effects the patients in kind of two buckets - something you were born with (I.E INHERITED) or something that was acquired (I.E. DEVELOP WITH TIME)?
  • Inherited valve disorders that people are born with commonly include bicuspid aortic valve, so that's an aortic valve that has two leaflets instead of the usual three. That affects about 2-3% of the population.
  • The other valve problem that we see commonly that people are born with is mitral valve prolapse. Where the connective tissue is a bit stretchier in these patients, and that can lead to those valves developing leaks over.


WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HEART VALVE DISEASE?

  • Heart valve disease can develop quickly or over a long period. When valve disease develops more slowly, there may be no symptoms until the condition is quite advanced.
  • When it develops more suddenly, the most common thing we see is people getting more short of breath with physical activity.
  • There can be other symptoms related to valvular heart disease, like getting dizzy or light headed, getting chest discomfort, having fatigue, or having an irregular heartbeat.

WHAT OPTIONS DOES LANKENAU HEART INSTITUTE OFFER PATIENTS WITH HEART VALVE DISEASE?

Lankenau Heart Institute is transforming the field of cardiovascular care by offering less invasive, newer-generation devices.

We are constantly seeking to treat our patients with the most effective, minimally invasive therapies (without open heart surgery) available for their specific condition, and we bring unique and very distinct capabilities to this effort.

From mechanical valve replacements, bioprosthetic valve replacements, percutaneous or catheter-based approaches like TAVR, Mitra Clip (mitral valve repair), percutaneous mitral valve replacement, and recently expanding tricuspid valve repair and replacement options.

We currently offer one of the largest portfolios of innovative and minimally invasive valve repair options in the country.

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