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URMC / URMC Cardiology / Patient Care / Conditions / Valvular Heart Disease

Valvular Heart Disease

What is it?

Your heart has four different valves: Two on the right and two on the left. These valves open to let blood pass and then close to keep blood from flowing in the wrong direction.

When something is wrong with one of these valves, you are said to have heart valve disease. Some people with heart valve disease are born with it, while others develop heart valve disease later in life.

Heart valves can malfunction in two ways: The valve opening may be too small, so not enough blood can pass through. This is called “stenosis”. Or the valve may not close completely, allowing blood to leak back through, a condition called “regurgitation.”

What are the symptoms?

Many patients do not notice any symptoms of heart valve disease. It is possible to have severe heart valve disease without any symptoms. Also, you may have symptoms even though your heart valve disease is not serious.

Following are symptoms that some patients with heart valve disease may experience:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Weakness during regular activities
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Discomfort in the chest
  • Palpitations or feeling that your heart has missed a beat
  • Swelling in ankles, feet or stomach
  • Sudden and unexplained weight gain
  • Headaches

How is it treated?

If heart valve disease is suspected, your doctor will first listen to your heart. A heart “murmur” suggests that a valve in your heart is not working correctly.

If this is the case, your doctor will recommend other tests to see if you have heart valve disease. The most commonly performed test to assess valve function is the cardiac ultrasound.  These tests may be repeated over time to see how the disease is progressing.

Treatments for heart valve disease differ depending on the severity of the disease.

Mild heart valve disease may only need to be monitored by your doctor periodically.

Moderate heart valve disease can often be treated successfully with medication.

Severe heart disease frequently requires surgery.

What is URMC’s approach?

The URMC Valve Center offers the full range of treatments that are available for heart valve disease, including medication and all surgical techniques.

Heart valve repair involves using a patient’s own tissue to fix the defective valve. URMC provides the most advanced procedures for heart valve repair.

Heart valve replacement means putting in a new mechanism to replace a severely damaged valve. URMC offers the very latest options for heart valve replacement, including valves made from natural and artificial materials.

Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) is performed at URMC. It is a rapid non-invasive approach to treat severe valve disease.

Who should I contact?

If you have symptoms or have been diagnosed with heart valve disease, call URMC Cardiology at (585) 275-2475.