Valvular Disease

About Valvular Disease

Valvular disease is damage or defect to any one of the heart's four valves – aortic, mitral, pulmonary, or tricuspid. This disease can be congenital (present from the time of birth) or develop over time as valves can become dysfunctional.  Valves can become stenotic or narrowed, making them unable to open and close and there  preventing normal blood flow through the chambers of the heart and out to the rest of the body.    Valves can also become leaky or incompetent.   When this occurs, blood flows backwards through a valve creating progressive problems with the heart, lungs and other organs.  

Symptoms of valvular disease can be limited in how they present themselves, but a few to be aware of include:

  • Shortness of breath or wheezing following limited physical activity (walking up stairs, walking in a store)
  • Swelling of the extremities or abdomen
  • Palpitations, or mild chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Weight gain

Diagnosing Valvular Disease

Diagnosing valvular conditions can be done through a series of diagnostic procedures including an echocardiogram.  During an echocardiogram sound waves (ultrasound) are used to take a picture of the four chambers of the heart and the for heart valves.  The test produces a picture called an echocardiogram, which is used by healthcare professionals to detect damage and disease. Transthoracic Echocardiograms are non invasive and done routinely without the need for hospitalization or sedation.    Transesophageal Echocardiograms can be more detailed and are also done by passing a special probe into the throat and stomach.   These procedures require sedation but are often necessary before a decision regarding the need for surgery is made.  

In some cases, additional tests or procedures are required to diagnose valvular heart disease.  A cardiac catheterization , for example, is a test in which an interventional cardiologist uses inserts a catheter into the blood vessels and to take pictures (angiograms) of the heart in order to measure the functionality of the heart valves.

If you are experiencing symptoms or have concerns about a family member who might be displaying signs of valvular disease, call 1 (855) HEART-11 to contact a nurse who can connect you to our cardiac team. Click here to reach us by email.

Valvular Disease Treatment

Very often, medication is used to treat valvular disease. If your condition is asymptomatic and you are not displaying symptoms, your doctor may recommend evaluation to manage the disease. However, surgical procedures can be required. Heart valve surgery has become an established and effective treatment for heart valve disease.  The North Shore-LIJ cardiac team offers many treatments for valve disease including minimally invasive cardiac procedures and traditional cardiac surgery. 

Experience and Outcomes Matter

If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with valvular disease, it's important to understand your treatment options.  Lifestyle changes and medication can often treat symptoms, but eventually surgery may be needed to repair or replace a damaged heart valve.   If surgery is recommended, choosing an experienced surgical program with proven outcomes is critical. 

Our experienced cardiac program has been consistently recognized by the New York State Department of Health.  Each year, the Department of Health analyzes cardiac outcomes in hospitals across the state, the most recent reports  (covering 2009-11) reaffirm the superior results of the cardiac services being delivered at North Shore-LIJ hospitals.  The reports show Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY, had the state's best outcomes for patients undergoing surgeries to repair or replace heart valves and for those in need of surgeries for both valve and coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.   LIJ was one of only two hospitals in the state with risk-adjusted mortality rates that were significantly better than the statewide average for patients undergoing heart valve or valve/CABG surgeries. The Health System is proud to receive this recognition for quality care and patient outcomes.

To learn more about our experienced cardiac team and the treatments available for heart valve disease, call 1 (855) HEART-11. Click here  to reach us by email.

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