Cardiovascular Group and Northside Hospital are pleased to announce the signing of a Practice Services Agreement, signifying a major leap forward in cardiovascular patient care and clinical leadership in the Atlanta region.
Heart valve disease occurs when one or more of the valves in your heart is unable to work properly, resulting in an inability for your heart to pump enough blood.
This form occurs when a valve is unable to fully open or close due to stiff or fused leaflets. The opening becomes narrow which makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood, meaning it has to work much harder to help your body receive an adequate amount of blood. All four valves can develop stenosis; these conditions are referred to as tricuspid stenosis, pulmonic stenosis, mitral stenosis, and aortic stenosis.
This is also referred to as regurgitation, incompetence, or a “leaky valve”. This form occurs when the valves are unable to close tightly. Since the valves can’t seal properly, blood will begin to leak backwards across the valve. As the leaky valve worsens, the heart must work harder to pump blood sufficiently and less blood will flow to the rest of the body.
There are several factors which can lead to increased risk of heart valve disease, such as old age, a history of infections or heart disease, family history, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Congenital heart defects are also a risk factor for developing heart valve disease.
Heart valve disease can lead to blood clots, arrhythmias, stroke, heart failure, and even death.
Heart valve disease is caused when one or more of the four heart valves– known as the mitral, tricuspid, pulmonary, and aortic valves– fail to open or close properly, disrupting the blood flow to your heart. Each valve has flaps or leaflets that are supposed to open and close once per heartbeat, and if this pattern gets disturbed, it can create many side effects.
Congenital Valve Disease
This form of valve disease is present from birth and typically affects the aortic or pulmonic valves. Valves may have been formed with the wrong size, have malformed leaflets, or have leaflets that are attached incorrectly.
Bicuspid Aortic Valve Disease
This is a form of congenital valve disease that affects the aortic valve, causing it to have only two leaflets instead of the regular amount, which is three. With the absence of the third leaflet, the bicuspid aortic valve may be stiff or leaky, causing it to either be unable to open or close properly, or not be able to close tightly.
This is caused by an untreated bacterial infection, most commonly strep throat. The infection usually occurs in children and causes inflammation of the heart valves, although symptoms linked to this inflammation are not typically seen until decades later. With proper treatment through antibiotics, this infection has become much less common.
This occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream and attacks the heart valves, resulting in growths, holes, and scarring which can lead to leaky valves. Bacteria that causes endocarditis can enter the bloodstream due to dental procedures, surgery, IV drug use, or severe infections.
Mitral Valve Prolapse
This condition affects 1 to 2% of the population and causes the leaflets of the mitral valve to flop back into the left atrium when your heart contracts. This condition also causes valve tissue to become abnormal and stretchy, leading to leakage.
Valve disease can also be caused by other heart diseases such as coronary artery disease, heart attacks, and cardiomyopathy. Other causes include syphilis, high blood pressure, aortic aneurysms, connective tissue diseases, tumors, drugs, and radiation.
Your doctor can diagnose heart valve disease by conducting a physical exam, where they start by listening to your heart to determine if you are experiencing an enlarged heart, heart murmurs, or arrhythmias. Your doctor will also listen to your lungs to discover if you are retaining any fluid, which is a sign that the heart is not pumping efficiently.
After the physical exam, your doctor may conduct other tests as well, such as an echocardiogram or cardiac catheterization.
Treatment for heart valve disease depends on the type and severity of heart valve disease. The three goals of treatment are to prevent further damage, lessen symptoms, and repair or replace valves. This can be done with medications and surgeries that treat symptoms and decrease the chances of further damage.
Surgeries can be performed to cut away scar tissue and calcium deposits that disrupt the heart’s ability to pump blood, or leaflets may be reshaped. Your heart valves may also be replaced with mechanical valves, or an artificial body part that works the way the original valve was supposed to.
Heart valve disease can be present without showing symptoms for many years. When symptoms do occur, they include heart murmurs, chest pain, abdominal swelling, heart palpitations, fatigue, and feeling short of breath. Other symptoms can include swelling in your ankles and feet and rapid weight gain.
As heart valve disease can often lead to heart failure, you may experience symptoms of heart failure as well.
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Invasive therapies may also be used to treat an abnormal heart rhythm, such as electrical cardioversion which sends electrical impulses through your chest wall and allows normal heart rhythm to restart, or catheter ablation which disconnects the pathway of the abnormal rhythm. If your doctor determines that electrical devices are the best course of action, you may be given a permanent pacemaker, an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), or biventricular (B-V) pacemakers and defibrillators.
CVG offers a variety of services that can check and treat symptoms of angina. At CVG, we perform stress tests that will observe blood flow and test for Atrial Fibrillation. There are three types of stress tests that we perform:
A treadmill test is a test in which you will walk on a treadmill that gets faster and steeper every 3 minutes. This will stress your heart so that our nurse or doctor can determine your EKG and blood pressure.
An echo test is performed before and after your treadmill test to determine how well your heart pumps blood.
A nuclear stress test is a treadmill test that is prefaced by an injection of medicine that shows the flow of blood to your heart.
We also offer cardiac catheterization, in which a catheter is inserted into the heart in order to take pictures and conduct tests. This procedure allows doctors to gain more information about your condition and suggest treatment options.
If these tests determine a problem, we offer treatment solutions to fix several conditions. Learn more about our services here, or schedule an appointment to talk to our doctors.