About heart valve disease
Your heart has four valves (pulmonary, tricuspid, aortic and mitral). They are located at the exit of each heart chamber. Flaps on the valves open and close to allow blood to flow smoothly in one direction only.
When a valve can't open completely (stenosis), the right amount of blood can't pass through. When a valve can’t close completely (regurgitation), blood leaks back through the valve. Heart valves can develop both malfunctions at the same time. Also, more than one heart valve can be affected at the same time.
When heart valves fail to open and close properly, the implications for the heart can be serious, possibly hampering the heart's ability to pump blood adequately through the body. Heart valve problems are one cause of heart failure.
Symptoms of heart valve disease
Mild heart valve disease may not cause any symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of heart valve disease, but they can vary depending on the type of heart valve disease present:
- Chest pain (angina)
- Heart palpitations (irregular heartbeat)
- Migraine headaches
- Low or high blood pressure, depending on which valve disease is present
- Shortness of breath (especially when active)
- Weight gain
- Ankle swelling
Treatment for valve disease
Valve disease treatment sometimes includes medication. If medication is not effective and you need surgery to repair or replace a damaged heart valve, the Structural Heart Disease Program at Lehigh Valley Heart Institute is here for you.
Valve disease treatment options at Lehigh Valley Heart Institute:
- TAVR: Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is used to treat aortic stenosis. With TAVR, your doctor places an expandable valve into your heart via a catheter (tiny, hollow tube). Your doctor inserts the catheter into an artery through your groin. Lehigh Valley Heart Institute performs a large number of TAVR procedures every year. We also offer a variety of replacement valve sizes, allowing us to get the right valves to more people.
- MitraClip®: This device treats mitral valve regurgitation, or leaky valve, in patients who can’t undergo open-heart surgery. Your doctor uses a catheter-based approach to place the device, which clips and closes leaky valves.
- Heart valve replacement: Your doctor replaces a damaged heart valve with a mechanical valve or a biological valve made from heart tissue taken from a pig (porcine) or cow (bovine).
- Robotic-assisted mitral valve repair: Your doctor inserts a small camera and instruments into tiny incisions between your ribs to perform surgery to fix mitral valve regurgitation.
- Balloon valvuloplasty: To treat narrowed valves, or valve stenosis, your doctor threads a catheter with a balloon on its tip through a blood vessel. The balloon inflates to stretch the valve opening. By having the balloon press against the hardened tissue, the valve can open and close more effectively. The balloon deflates for removal from the blood vessel.
Our surgeons work closely with your physician to plan your care step-by-step, making sure you are part of each decision.
Follow-up care after valve surgery
After surgery to repair or replace a heart valve, the team at Lehigh Valley Heart Institute is here to help you recover. Rehabilitation is an important part of your recovery. You will benefit from an individualized program of supervised exercise and health education that focuses on lifestyle changes.