As many as 11.6 million Americans are estimated to have heart valve disease, and each year around 25,000 people die from the disease. Fortunately, valve disease can usually be successfully treated in patients of all ages.
But successful treatment depends on understanding risk factors, recognizing symptoms, and getting timely treatment. Unfortunately, three out of four Americans report knowing little to nothing about the disease.
The heart is a powerful organ that is responsible for continuously circulating blood throughout the body. The heart’s four chambers squeeze and relax in a coordinated manner to pump blood to the lungs, and through the circulatory system to deliver oxygen and nutrients.
Between each of the heart’s chambers is a valve—a thin leaflet of tissue that keeps blood moving in only one direction and with the right amount of force. The valves keep blood from leaking backwards by only opening one way and sealing tightly as soon as blood passes through.
Heart valve disease (valve disease) is a type of heart disease that involves damage to one or more of the heart’s four valves that causes them to not open or close properly and disrupts blood flow. If a valve doesn’t close completely and allows blood to leak backwards, it’s called regurgitation or insufficiency, and may be referred to as a leaky valve. If a valve doesn’t open fully to allow enough blood to flow through, it’s called stenosis and may also be referred to as a sticky, narrowed, or stiff valve. A valve may also fail to open fully due to an obstruction.
Depending on the type of valve disease, the damage can cause the heart to work harder than it should and can restrict blood flow to the rest of the body. Without treatment, this can lead to serious complications including arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, stroke, other heart disease, and even death.
Who is at risk? 1. Older Age: Wear and tear to the valves is the most common cause of valve disease. 2. Congenital Abnormalities: People can be born with narrow, deformed, or even missing valves. 3. Infection: Bacterial endocarditis is an infection of the inner layer of the heart or heart valves that is most commonly caused by staphylococci (staph) and streptococci (strep) bacteria. 4. Cardiovascular Diseases and Conditions: Problems with the heart or vascular system can also result in valve problems. For example, heart attacks can cause scarring of the heart muscle and distort the valves, an enlarged heart can stretch open a valve, long-term raised blood pressure can cause heart damage, and aortic dissections or tears can extend to the valve. 5. Family History: 6. Other Health Conditions: Chronic kidney disease, lupus, and Marfan syndrome can all increase risk.
What are the Symptoms of Valve Disease? 1. Lightheadedness 2. Irregular heartbeat, heart flutter, or chest pains 3. Shortness of breath after light activity or while laying down 4. Tiredness 5. Edema (swelling of the ankles and feet).
How is Valve Disease Diagnosed? Early detection and timely treatment of valve disease is critical to successful outcomes. Everyone should have their heart listened to by a healthcare provider regularly because valve disease can often be detected with a simple stethoscope check. If a murmur is detected, your health care provider may order additional tests that can include: electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiogram (ECG), chest x-ray, cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), stress tests and/or a cardiac catheterization.
How is Valve Disease treated? Treatment of valve disease depends on your symptoms, the severity of your disease, and whether or not it is getting worse.1. Monitoring: Some types of valve disease don’t need treatment, or don’t need treatment right away. But all types should be monitored regularly 2. Medications: There are no medications that keep valve disease from getting worse, that undo damage already done, or that cure valve disease. However, there are some medications that can help relieve or lesson the symptoms of valve disease by reducing the heart’s workload, regulating heart rhythms, preventing blood clots, and preventing infections.3. Valve Repair or Replacement: Fortunately, these procedures and surgeries are usually very successful in patients of all ages. Repairing the Valve is modifying the structure of the valve. This can involve adding tissue to patch holes or tears, removing or reshaping tissue, separating fused valve leaflets, and more. This may require surgery or may be done through a minimally invasive procedure. Replacement – the new valve can be a tissue (bioprosthetic) valve or a mechanical valve. Tissue valves are made from cow or pig tissue or taken from human cadavers. Mechanical valves are made from carbon.A valve may need to be replaced with open heart surgery. In some cases, the valve can be replaced through a less invasive procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR or TAVI). In TAVR, a new valve is placed with a thin tube (catheter) inserted through an artery in the chest or leg.
What can I expect after surgery? Most people who have valve repair or replacement can expect to return to a normal life after recovery. Recovery times typically range from two to eight weeks with a hospital stay of three to five days. After a patient returns home and gets back to mild activities, they may start doing cardiac rehabilitation to help with exercise training and other support as they recover. This article comes from the website: https://valvediseaseday.org/ to educate our community. See website to learn more.
Sandy Bradley RN, BSN