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Heart Valve Disease
In heart valve disease, also known as valvular heart disease, one or more of the valves in your heart doesn't work properly.
Your heart has four valves that keep blood flowing in the correct direction: the mitral, tricuspid, pulmonary and aortic valves. Each valve has flaps, or leaflets or cusps, that open and close once during each heartbeat. Sometimes the valves don't open or close properly, disrupting the blood flow through your heart to your body.
Your heart valve disease treatment depends on the heart valve affected, and the type and severity of the valve disease. Sometimes heart valve disease requires surgery to repair or replace the heart valve.
Some people with heart valve disease may not experience symptoms for many years. Signs and symptoms of heart valve disease can include:
- Abnormal sound (heart murmur) when a health care provider is listening to your heartbeat with a stethoscope
- Chest pain.
- Abdominal swelling.
- Shortness of breath, particularly when you have been active or when you lie down.
- Swelling of your ankles and feet.
- Irregular heartbeat.
Several factors can increase your risk of heart valve disease, including:
- Older age.
- History of certain infections that can affect the heart.
- History of certain forms of heart disease or heart attack.
- High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and other heart disease risk factors.
- Congenital heart disease.
Heart valve disease treatment depends on how severe your condition is, if you're experiencing signs and symptoms, and if your condition is worsening.
Surgery options can include:
Heart valve repair
Your health care provider may often recommend heart valve repair when possible, as it preserves your heart valve and may preserve heart function. To repair a valve, surgeons may separate valve flaps that have fused, replace the cords that support the valve, remove excess valve tissue so that the valve flaps can close tightly, or patch holes in a valve. Surgeons may often tighten or reinforce the ring around a valve, or annulus, by implanting an artificial ring.
Heart valve replacement
If the valve can't be repaired, a cardiovascular surgeon may perform heart valve replacement. In heart valve replacement, your surgeon removes the damaged valve and replaces it with a mechanical valve, or a valve made from cow, pig or human heart tissue. The latter is known as a biological or tissue valve.
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a minimally invasive procedure to replace a narrowed aortic valve that fails to open properly. This is called aortic valve stenosis. TAVR is sometimes called transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI).
TAVR is usually reserved for people who can't undergo open-heart surgery or surgery presents too many risks. TAVR can relieve the signs and symptoms of aortic valve stenosis, and may improve survival in people who can't undergo surgery or have a high risk of surgical complications.
During TAVR, doctors may access your heart through a blood vessel in your leg. A hollow tube, or catheter, is inserted through the access point. Your doctor uses advanced imaging techniques to guide the catheter through your blood vessels to your heart and into your aortic valve.
Once it's precisely positioned, special tools and the replacement valve are passed through the catheter. A balloon is expanded to press the replacement valve into place in the aortic valve. When your doctor is certain the valve is securely in place, the catheter is withdrawn from the insertion point.
Cardiovascular surgery is performed by Mayo Clinic Health System's world-class surgical team in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, or at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Your local cardiology experts can manage your consultations and diagnostic tests, as well as preoperative and postoperative care. This approach ensures you receive the best heart care while minimizing travel and keeping you close to home and family. Mayo Clinic Health System is with you every step of the way, no matter the level of care needed in your health journey.