Heart Valve Disease

What Is Heart Valve Disease?

Heart valve disease and heart valve problems are more common than you might think, and they can be serious. They do not discriminate, affecting many adults and children, as well. 

The most common forms of heart valve disease are: 

  • Aortic stenosis - A condition in which the aortic valve in your heart fails to open properly.
  • Mitral valve prolapse - A problem in which the valve separating the chambers on the left side of your heart fails to open properly.
  • Mitral valve regurgitation - A condition in which the mitral valve leaks and blood flows backwards when the left ventricle contracts. 

If these conditions go untreated, they can lead to long-term heart problems, including heart failure. At Banner Health, our heart specialists are ready to diagnose any heart valve problem you may be experiencing and work with you on the best treatment options for your condition.

What Are the Symptoms of Heart Valve Disease?

For some people, symptoms can come on very quickly. For others, the disease will progress slowly, and symptoms will be mild.

Physical symptoms may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Feeling lightheaded or fainting
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Swollen feet or ankles

Some people with heart valve disease won’t experience any symptoms at all, and because of that, symptoms have no bearing on the seriousness of the problem. If you think you may be at risk for heart valve disease, talk to your doctor.

What Are the Causes and Risk Factors for Heart Valve Disease?

Heart valve disease may be present at birth or it may develop in adulthood. People who are elderly, have experienced rheumatic fever, or had a heart attack or another type of heart disease may have a higher risk of developing heart valve disease.

Other risk factors include:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking or intravenous drug use
  • Obesity
  • Family history

Not everyone with risk factors will develop heart valve disease but if you have risk factors, it’s good to discuss them with your doctor.

How Is Heart Valve Disease Diagnosed?

The right diagnosis and the right treatment can help you fully recover and get back to your life. The Banner Health heart care team is skilled in thorough methods of diagnosis. Our heart specialists are nationally recognized experts and will provide you with support throughout the process of exams that may include:

  • Physical exam and blood tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • ECG or EKG (electrocardiogram)
  • Echocardiograms
  • Cardiac MRI
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • MUGA scan/viability scan
  • Stress tests, including pharmacologic (medicine induced) and nuclear stress tests

What Is the Treatment for a Heart Valve Problem?

Depending on your prognosis, your doctor may try medication at first to manage issues such as mitral valve prolapse. If medicine doesn’t help, you may need surgery.

Today, our heart surgeons can provide different types of minimally invasive procedures as alternatives to open heart surgery. Common procedures include:

Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)

A procedure that inserts a replacement valve into the aortic value through the use of a catheter.

Mitraclip

A device that is inserted through the groin and placed on the mitral valve to reduce mitral regurgitation.

A less-invasive approach means less risk of infection, less pain after surgery and a shorter hospital stay.

Can I Get a New, Artificial Heart Valve?

After ensuring an accurate diagnosis, our heart care experts will outline an action plan and the following procedures may be considered:

  • Advanced medical management for all heart valve conditions
  • Traditional (Open) and minimally invasive (TAVR) aortic valve repair and replacement procedures
  • Traditional (Open) and minimally invasive (TMVR) mitral valve repair procedures

Banner Health was among the first in the nation to offer the Sapien Transcatheter Heart Valve, using transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) - one of the latest and most innovative treatments available. This is just one example of the many state-of-the-art options we have available to treat these conditions.

With our heart valve specialists, you'll be in good hands with access to the widest range of options for treating heart valve issues.

How Do I Prevent Heart Valve Disease?

Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly may help prevent heart valve disease. Be sure to get regular screenings for cholesterol levels and blood pressure to help maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle.