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Valvular Heart Disease

What is Valvular Heart Disease?

Any dysfunction or abnormality of one or more of the heart’s four valves (Mitral, Aortic, Tricuspid, and Pulmonic) may eventually require heart surgery. In a normally functioning heart, the four valves keep blood flowing in one direction and only at the right time. They act as gates that swing open to allow blood to flow through and then tightly shut until the next cycle begins.

What Causes Valvular Heart Disease?

At birth, some heart valves are defective and need to be repaired immediately. A minor defect at birth may not be found but may slightly weaken the heart valve or affect blood flow patterns. As a result, the heart valve will get worse later in life and may need to be corrected with surgery. Diseases such as rheumatic fever or bacterial infections may affect a valve causing scarring or totally destroying it.

What are the Different Types of Valvular Heart Disease?

  • Valvular Stenosis: A condition in which there is a narrowing, stiffening, thickening, fusion or blockage of one or more valves of the heart. As a result, the defective valve can interfere with the smooth passage of blood through it. Most common conditions are Mitral Stenosis and Aortic Stenosis.
  • Valvular Regurgitation: A condition in which blood leaks back in the wrong.direction because one or more of the heart’s valves is closing improperly. The nature and severity of the leakage, in turn, may keep the heart from circulating an adequate amount of blood through the defective valve. Most common conditions are Mitral Regurgitation and Aortic Regurgitation.

How Would You Suspect You Have Valvular Heart Disease?

Valve disease is suspected by the patient’s symptoms. Both valvular stenosis and valvular regurgitation can result in the reduction of blood flow to the body. People may complain of one or more of these symptoms:

  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Swelling of the feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness and passing out
  • Chest pains

What Tests Can Help Diagnose Valvular Heart Disease?

  • Echocardiogram: This test helps to visualize the heart muscle and valves using sound waves. The valves can usually be visualized quite well, and the degree of leakage or stenosis can be estimated, in many cases with a high degree of accuracy.
  • Cardiac Catheterization: This test can fully evaluate the heart valves

How is Valvular Heart Disease Treated?

Medications do not work to correct the defect in the valve itself, but rather medications can decrease the workload of the heart. At times, surgery is needed to repair/ replace the diseased valve. Artificial valves can be mechanical (prosthetic) or tissue (bio-prosthetic). Those persons with mechanical valves will need to be on lifelong anticoagulant therapy to reduce risk of blood clots that can form around the mechanical valve. In addition, patients with valvular heart disease most often will NOT require endocarditis prophylaxis (infection of the heart valves) prior to dental and other procedures. Always tell your doctor or dentist that you have Valvular Heart Disease.

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