Heart Valve Disease

Mitral or aortic heart valve disease occurs when your heart valves no longer open or close efficiently to pump blood to your body

What Are Heart Valves?

heart valve disease diagram
Cross-section of the heart and heart valves credit: Scott Weldon

Heart valves are one-way gates that keep blood flowing between four chambers of the heart. Each of the four valves let blood circulate through the heart and out to the rest of your body. The valves then close to keep blood from leaking back in the wrong direction. The heart’s chambers and valves all work together to keep blood flowing correctly.

There are four basic types of heart valve disease:

Mitral valve stenosis
Mitral valve regurgitation
Aortic valve stenosis
Aortic valve regurgitation

Heart Valve Disease: Causes & Symptoms

A Baylor College of Medicine surgeon discusses the cause of heart valve disease

What Causes Heart Valve Disease?

Causes

Diseases, either congenital or acquired, occurring early or later in life, can change the shape or flexibility of your heart valves. Heart valves can be affected by:

  • Age-related changes
  • Marfan syndrome and other connective tissue disorders causing tissue weakness
  • Calcification
  • Congenitally abnormal valves
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Infection

Symptoms

Early in the disease process you may not experience any symptoms. If your condition becomes more severe you may begin to notice:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain in the chest
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Excessive tiredness or fatigue
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Leg swelling
credit: Osmosis

Aortic Valve Disease

credit: Osmosis

Mitral Valve Disease

Heart Valve Disease: Treatment Options 

Non-Surgical Approach

The symptoms of heart valve disease can often be treated with medications by physicians at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center located in Houston’s Texas Medical Center.

Sometimes these medications can slow or delay the progression of heart valve disease, but many forms of valve disease progress to the point where the valve must be repaired or replaced.

While some cases of heart valve disease can be corrected by non-surgical, catheter-based interventions, these are largely reserved for intermediate to high-risk patients.

Surgical Interventions

The specially trained heart surgeons at Baylor College of Medicine recommend close monitoring and correction of valve disease before symptoms develop. Evidence from studies clearly show that in most cases early intervention can be safely performed and result in better outcomes, including greater likelihood of survival, when compared to those with delayed intervention.

Our goal is to repair or replace your malfunctioning valves to prevent the development of life-threatening conditions and to prevent or improve symptoms of heart valve disease that you may have or develop.